Making Sense of the Woods/Koepka Thing

Fans Rapt with Sudden Case of Armchair Psychology

So, Brooks Koepka is our PGA winner, and he adds that victory to two U.S. Open triumphs. The man plays one whale of a game of golf, and for better or worse, he stopped the final step of Tiger Woods’ comeback last week. There is a certain group that woke up on Monday thinking, “Man, Tiger almost did it. If only that one last guy, whats-his-name hadn’t spoiled it.” There’s another group, a small one that should be a lot larger, who says, “Man, did you see that Koepka guy last week? The dude is great!” Articles abound on the mystery surrounding the supposedly “unloved” athlete, despite his obvious gifts. Who is he? With other heroes, we know all that important stuff in the first week. What gives? Isn’t shooting four great rounds and hoisting the trophy enough? Perhaps for the golfer, his family, and his checkbook, it is. However, if the golfer is interested in having a fan base, Koepka’s rise is still unfinished. There is work to do, that is if he thinks it is important.

The score, the trophy, etc. is wonderful and all that, but it is not something that we hackers can identify with. We’re impressed, but you can win and still not say anything to us. From the time Tiger reached the first tee for the first time, we’ve categorized and internalized every twitch and grimace, have risen and fallen with the fortunes of each shot, danced with joy or threw imaginary bricks at the television. He spoke to us from the beginning, emitting things that we can identify with. That doesn’t mean we always like him, but we are always engaged with what he is doing. The problems that derailed his career can happen to an average golfer. Shooting a 63 cannot. And that’s what we are apparently looking for as fans, a story and identity that we can read and react to. Being impressed with his golf is a separate issue. Koepka delivers on that.

Flight Deals? No Problem! Find a flight on CheapAir.comSo, is Tiger a nice guy? Sometimes, I guess, sometimes not. Is he elegant and refined? On occasion, but probably not as often as he should be. He can be loved and hated by the same person on the same day in the same tournament. He can be controversial when there is nothing to cause controversy. Is Brooks Koepka a nice guy? Probably, but I don’t know. Is he elegant and refined? I guess he probably can be, but I don’t know. Do I love or hate him as a fan? Nothing that extreme, I assure you. Is he controversial? No, just a really, really good golfer.

Maybe the answer lies in past remarks Koepka has ventured about himself in relation to the game. He once said that golf is a little boring, and doesn’t show enough action. Now baseball, that’s another story. He says that if he had it to do over, he’d go with baseball, hands down. When he starts talking like that, I suddenly see information coming out in speech and through facial expressions that we see in Tiger. Could it be that golf is not this man’s passion, but he plays it that well anyway? If that’s true, how does he stand long hours of practice? Does he play that well with minimal practice?

Of course, Brooks Koepka doesn’t owe any of us anything. Tiger doesn’t either, but he seems to need our appreciation. Koepka likes winning more. Still, if he was in some stadium hitting it out of the park, I think he would be a major league personality for us. We would read his excitement, frustration, anger, times of celebration, every twitch and grimace, and we would respond in kind. I personally doubt that Koepka has any problem at all, with golf, personality or being lovable, but maybe there’s something about being a golfer out on tour that doesn’t bring on the happy dance like an infield triple would. I don’t know if he wants the kind of attention Tiger gets, but if he does, he’ll have to throw the gallery a little red meat so that we can get down to the business of bonding with him.

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