Has Brooks Koepka's PGA Championship Win Validated LIV Golf?
The moment has arrived perhaps quicker than anybody expected. A LIV Golfer has won a Major championship.
Brooks Koepka sealed a two-stroke victory at Oak Hill Country Club to pick up his fifth Major title and third PGA Championship after years of injury struggle and less than 12 months after leaving the PGA Tour for Greg Norman's Saudi-backed start-up circuit.
Once the full roster was confirmed last summer, many fans may have only thought a few of the LIV players were still capable of winning golf's biggest events and that the likelihood of that happening would dwindle as time went on and their games deteriorated in the life of Golf, But Louder.
Cameron Smith had just won the 150th Open (while still a PGA Tour player) and reached 2nd in the world so he was never discounted, neither really was two-time Major champion Dustin Johnson or even Joaquin Niemann - who started 63-63 to win Tiger Woods' Genesis Invitational at Riviera last February to crack the world's top 20.
Brooks Koepka, though? He was now 'washed up', like most of the other LIV players, injured and never going to get back to the player he once was - that's why he took the money after all! It was this kind of narrative that many golf fans took and it turns out they were completely wrong.
LIV's events certainly have more of an exhibition feel to them. They are shorter. There is no cut, with guaranteed six-figure prize money going to the last-placed player even if they shoot three consecutive 85s. Would the players be bothered to practice like they used to when there's guaranteed money up for grabs? Surely it's not good preparation for four round, demanding Major championship examinations.
While most level headed people probably took all of these assumptions with a healthy pinch of salt, they were still questions out there in the open and what Brooks Koepka has done is silence them. Make no mistake about it, it's a huge win for LIV Golf.
There might even be an argument now that LIV's events are helping the players ahead of the Majors. They're only 54-holes so players remain fresh and without the worry of missing a cut, players get a guaranteed three rounds of competitive action. LIV players also may be fresher, as they're playing fewer tournaments and fewer rounds.
In 2023 so far, there has already been eight designated events on the PGA Tour plus two Majors, meaning that most have played 10+ times already this year. The LIV guys have played ever-so-slightly less with six LIV events, the Saudi International, maybe one or two Asian Tour events dotted in and the two Majors. But those LIV events have all been 54-holes, not 72...so maybe it is helping them stay fresh?
After some quick months, I counted that Scottie Scheffler has already played 11 times this year, 45 rounds, and Jordan Spieth has played 13 times and also 45 rounds. Brooks Koepka, on the other hand, has played 10 events, six of which were 54-holers, for a total of 32 rounds.
Have fewer rounds helped or hindered the LIV guys? Who knows, but their performances in the first two Majors of the year have certainly been solid to say the least. At The Masters where Koepka and Mickelson were T2nd, 12 of the 18 made the cut and at the PGA, 11 of the 16 made the weekend.
It's probably aided Koepka with his injuries, and the PGA Tour never really got him excited anyway. He's made it very clear that he only really does care about the Majors.
Brooks Koepka's win at Oak Hill is undoubtedly massive for the league and you'd think it would give some extra belief to his fellow players to go and do something similar at the next two Majors coming at the US Open in June and Open Championship in July.
Koepka was refusing to be drawn on whether it validates LIV, but did admit it's a big deal for the 54-hole tour.
"Yeah, I definitely think it helps LIV, but I'm more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you," he said.
"Yeah, it's a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time I'm out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship. I'm just happy to take this home for the third time.
"I think I was the first guy to win two LIV events. To win a major is always a big deal no matter where you're playing.
"All it does, I just think, I guess, validates it for myself. I guess maybe if anybody doubted it from Augusta or whatever, any doubts anybody on TV might have or whatever, I'm back, I'm here."
So LIV has undoubtedly been boosted. It bolsters its case for Official World Golf Ranking points, it perhaps spurs its players on to go and get into Major contention themselves and it maybe even makes the league a more enticing proposition for big names who are already qualified for Majors but are worried the format might see their games tail off and Major hopes end.
It could even signal fresh investment from the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, LIV's backers, who will be excited to see ones of their players on top of the golfing world.
It has also brought the golf world a little closer. Yes there are court cases going on left, right and center but seeing a LIV winner across the social media of the PGA of America, the Golf Channel, Sky Sports, websites across the globe and even on the PGA Tour's social feeds may just go a very small way in mending bridges. Koepka might even be on Team USA at the Ryder Cup in Rome, now, too. That's co-existing, isn't it?
Does Koepka's win make LIV Golf more money? Probably. Does it increase viewership? Maybe a little bit. Whether it brings in thousands and thousands of extra Smash GC fans and viewers on the CW Network is debatable but certainly on the face of it, having one of its players win a Major is a huge deal for the league's credibility.