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Brooks Koepka wins for the first time with son in attendance, becomes LIV’s first four-time champ

May 05, 2024
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Lionel Ng

In less than one week, the contrast of LIV Golf’s tournament venues was laid bare. On Tuesday, the league announced its 2024 individual championship—to be held in September—will head to the Bolingbrook Golf Club. The public course is 30 miles outside Chicago and has a peak green fee of $70. Public golf should never be ridiculed, lest we insult U.S, Open venues like Bethpage and Torrey Pines, but social media was awash with hyperbole, with some saying they’ve seen golfers play Bolingbrook in jeans. By Sunday, on the other side of the world, Brooks Koepka had won his fourth LIV event in Singapore at Sentosa Golf Club, one of the best and most exclusive golf clubs in Asia.

Competitively, Sentosa helped separate Koepka and the field via elite ball striking. Koepka fired a final-round 68 at LIV Golf Singapore on Sunday and finished 54 holes at 15 under par (198), for a two-shot win over Australians Cameron Smith and Marc Leishman. Koepka became LIV’s first four-time winner and did so for the first time with his newborn son, Crew, and wife, Jena, in attendance.

“It's something I've always dreamed of is having Jenna and Crew there when I win,” Koepka said. “It’s super special and something I'll never forget.”

Pre-tournament, the five-time major winner had lauded Sentosa, a long-time host of the Singapore Open, as a big-time venue.

“Last year, Talor [Gooch] won, great ball striker,” Koepka said of last year’s LIV Singapore winner. “He really can work the ball both ways, and flight it very well. Last year was probably one of the best [displays] I've seen somebody with control of the golf ball. It's a pure golf course. You look at that whole front [nine], it's all about positioning and being in the right spot in the fairway.”

Sentosa also served the same purpose that Mayakoba did for LIV’s season-opening venue in January, or Doral, the recent Miami stop before the Masters. And that Valderrama in Spain will no doubt offer in July: venues previously used by the Asian, PGA and DP World tours help discerning golf fans contextualize how well a LIV winner has played. Bolingbrook, for all its endearing charm, will not.

Courses like Sentosa, a private club ranked by Golf Digest at No. 55 in the world outside the United States and with a green fee at about $370—also helps to ready LIV’s major championship-eligible players for the four biggest events. Nine LIV members, including defending PGA champion Koepka and Smith, will tee up at Valhalla in 10 days at the PGA Championship. Another four of those nine finished within six of Koepka: Tyrrell Hatton (11 under), Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann (10 under) and Jon Rahm (nine under). It was their last competitive start before Valhalla.

Fortunately for Koepka, Sentosa’s demanding tee shots, unique bunkering, and green complexes with shaved areas tested his positioning and iron play. “I think iron play is a huge part of [having confidences in major championships],” Koepka said. “I think I'm a good ball striker. I'm pretty good inside eight feet. Normally when there's a clutch putt, I feel like I make it. I think the big thing that separates me is my ability to lock in and go someplace where I think a lot of guys can't go.”

As LIV Golf matures, the league will need to find continuity in its host courses if it wants to establish an identity. Is it going to embrace public golf and showcase overlooked courses in major markets like Chicago, or in Orlando where last year the league visited Orange County National the week before the 2023 Masters? Or is it going to resorts and expensive destination courses?

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Lionel Ng

It is understandable that much of LIV’s focus is on the atmosphere of its events. After all, LIV’s mantra is, “Golf, but louder.” No doubt, the buzz generated by 94,000 fans in Adelaide last week was refreshing. That is why the league is looking outside the U.S., to golf-hungry markets, for 2025 and beyond. The league is believed to be headed to Japan and on Sunday, LIV commissioner Greg Norman posted to social media that he was watching the Singapore final round from Tokyo.

“We'll be going to more countries outside of the United States that really are starving for world-class professional golf, and we'll have a lot more receptions like we had at Adelaide,” Phil Mickelson said. “I see the global game of golf growing at an extremely high level.”

Perhaps it will. But the league will also serve its star players well if it continues to go to venues like Sentosa.