What if the spat between Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau was just a bit of ‘theatre’?
What if it was golf’s version of boxing’s Floyd Mayweather versus Logan Paul? Where something is hyped up to create interest, only to discover that there are no hard feelings at all and behind the scenes there’s a couple of laughs and fist bumps?
In Mayweather’s case, he stood to bank some $70-million for keeping a YouTuber with a 0-1 ‘professional record’ upright for eight rounds of boxing, and Paul, upwards of $20m.
That ‘fight’ was bought by over 600 000 pay-per-view watchers. It was another farce that gave boxing its countless black eye, but few care about the sport itself. It’s all about ‘clickbait’, social media popularity and bingo, we have a winner.
Which brings me to Brooks and Bryson. I’ve convinced myself that their dislike for one another is a sham, a publicity stunt if you like.
At the end of The PGA Championship, a video featuring Koepka losing his train of thought was ‘leaked’ and went viral on social media. DeChambeau had walked behind him, golf studs pounding and talking loudly. A fortnight later Koepka felt the ‘altercation’ was good for golf. ‘I really do. The fact that golf’s on pretty much every news outlet for about two weeks, I think that’s a good thing. It’s growing the game. I get the traditionalists who don’t agree with it. But to grow the game, you’ve got to reach out to the younger generation. I don’t want to say that’s what this is, but it’s reaching out to a whole bunch of people. It’s getting golf in front of people. It’s good for the game.’
Ah. For years we’ve been looking at how to grow the game and here we have it. Get a couple of golfers to share a public dislike for one another and ramp up the social media hits. Perhaps next they can pull a Mayweather and Logan Paul and have an exhibition fight? How many suckers would pay to watch that live? Answer: more than you think.
You will know by now that the PGA launched a PGA Tour Player Impact Program. Basically, it will identify the 10 biggest ‘needle-movers’ in golf and reward them from a $40m fund. Players who receive the most social media engagement will share the jackpot.
The scheme was supposedly devised to offset the creation of a Professional Golf League, the sport’s version of football’s Super League. Just like its football cousin, it’s impossible to see the breakaway working.
But now the PGA has given pros a juicier carrot to chew on. Ramp up your social media and the 10 who get the most ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘reaction’, will take home a portion of the $40m jackpot.
There are those who have said that Koepka has an ‘uncomplicated’ way of thinking, which helps him focus on the golf course, where he has won four Majors. They say the same of Dustin Johnson. Perhaps those people are being too harsh. It might well be that Koepka is something of a marketing genius. Just like Mayweather is – and even like the Paul brothers, Logan and Jake, who have become ‘famous’ and very rich ‘celebrities’ through YouTube and social media.
I shudder to think what will happen to our beloved sport of professional golf if social media popularity is now one of the drivers to determine who is worth financially rewarding and inviting to selected tournaments. Don’t snigger. If someone like Logan Paul can get into the boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather, why can’t he be given an honorary spot to play at The Masters at Augusta?
– This column first appeared in the July 2021 issue of Compleat Golfer magazine. The October 2021 issue is on sale now.