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Lynch: Brooks Koepka’s major victory is being hijacked by hangers-on

For all that has changed in golf, one thing has remained constant whenever Brooks Koepka wins a major championship: his ornery refusal to submit to the customary show and tell tour of television talk shows. A few hours after winning the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday, he headed home to Florida, where he spent Monday celebrating with his buddies on a boat before taking the silverware to a Panthers game. Meanwhile, a man who tied 15th appeared on the Today show, Good Morning America and CNN.

If Koepka was uninterested in using his PGA Championship victory as a platform for point scoring, there was no shortage of scavengers eager to do so in his stead.

His swing instructor, Claude Harmon III, was first out of the blocks, exploiting the moment to air his grievances about those in media (chiefly Brandel Chamblee, with a drive-by caress of yours truly) whose criticisms of LIV Golf are at odds with his avaricious burrowing into the Saudi trough. Harmon has been an occasional friend for 20 years, but even his pals know he’s peerless in marketing himself on the accomplishments of others, a skill honed from the cradle. His attack featured all the whataboutery you’d expect from one more apt to flatter royalty than to inquire after those they torture. (In CH3’s defense, no one should be subjected to a Chamblee reply that is ungoverned by Twitter character limits).

Alert to any opportunity to remind his Saudi overlords that he’s a loyal supplicant, Phil Mickelson leapt on the Brooks bandwagon and sought to portray the win not as proof of Koepka’s brilliance but as evidence of the superiority of the circuit he helped engineer. “Love LIV or hate it, it’s the best way/Tour to be your best in the majors,” he tweeted. “Enough events to keep you sharp, fresh and ready, yet not be worn down from too many tournaments or obligations. 14 LIV events, 34 weeks left open to prepare for the 4 majors. Fact.”

That Mickelson cannot distinguish between statements of fact and opinion comes as no shock since he has long since blurred the line between fact and fiction too.

Greg Norman cheered the victory as one for LIV and organized a welcoming party for the champ at Trump National in Washington, D.C., that had all the spontaneity and genuine warmth of a Pyongyang parade honoring Dear Leader. No such theater greeted Jon Rahm when he arrived at the RBC Heritage fresh off his Masters win, but then no one was desperate to leverage the Spaniard’s success for their own interests.

Even Bryson DeChambeau has been drafting on his former nemesis. “It validates everything we’ve said from the beginning. That we’re competing at the highest level, and we have the ability to win major championships,” he said, making two points, only one of which is demonstrably true, and even then only for a handful of his colleagues.

Koepka’s fifth major no more belongs to Norman or LIV than his previous four did to Jay Monahan or the PGA Tour, and in the immediate afterglow Koepka bristled at what he knew was coming. Have you heard from Norman? he was asked. “I called my wife, and that’s it,” he replied. “That’s the only person I’m really interested in talking to.”

“I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in my own self right now,” he went on. “It’s a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time I’m out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship.”

Koepka makes a poor patsy for LIV’s lickspittles. He was openly dismissive of regular PGA Tour events so the notion that he’s invested in 54-hole shotgun starts against the Andy Ogletrees of the world is fanciful. He was not a plaintiff in the Saudi-funded litigation, has chosen not to badmouth the tour he left, and has not been a particularly enthusiastic propagandist for the tour he joined. He gives the impression of a man checking the boxes required of him, nothing more.

But while Koepka goes about his business, his success is used as a smokescreen by charlatans. Criticisms about Saudi sportswashing, or about the viability of the LIV product, are not nullified because he can still deliver in majors. Sunday reminded us that Koepka is a formidable predator who chooses to swim in a shallow pond, but the days since have revealed the extent to which he is surrounded by pilot fish trying to subsist on his triumph.

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