It's a fine line these days, isn't it? Any piece of constructive criticism can be viewed as vicious and destructive to the recipient's mental health. I'm sure that's what some will argue in the wake of Brooks Koepka's explosive comments toward his LIV Golf Smash GC teammate Matthew Wolff, as reported by SI's Alex Miceli:
"I mean, when you quit on your round, you give up and stuff like that, that's not competing. I'm not a big fan of that. You don't work hard. It's very tough. It's very tough to have even like a team dynamic when you've got one guy that won't work, one guy is not going to give any effort, he’s going to quit on the course, break clubs, gets down, bad body language, it's very tough. I've basically given up on him—a lot of talent, but I mean the talent's wasted."
I mean DAMN!! Talk about blasting your teammate into the fucking sun. In the article, it's mentioned that Wolff withdrew from LIV's event in Washington, D.C., in May after only 36 holes when he was in 46th place in a field of 48. Hence the "quit on your round" bit of Koepka's stinging soliloquy.
We all know Brooks isn't afraid to say what he's really thinking. Whether you like him or not, you have to respect how he speaks his mind. Although I was disappointed at first that he decided to join LIV Golf, after watching some of his behind-the-scenes struggles with confidence on Netflix's amazing Full Swing series, Brooks showed a vulnerability behind that cocky public facade. Couldn't help but start rooting for him again, and it's been awesome to see his resurgence, culminating in a third PGA Championship in May.
So like, yeah, Brooks can be a little melodramatic and "extra" with his words to the public oftentimes. I don't think Matthew Wolff should take this super personally. On the other hand, Wolff has said he's struggled with mental health and has been more of a shell of the player he has the potential to be than anything else, especially in the past two years or so.
Not a shocker to see Wolff respond to Koepka's remarks like so (salute to Alex Miceli again):
"I read the SI interview with our Captain Brooks Koepka and it was beyond disappointing to me. When I chose to join his Team in 2023, I did so with much optimism about my new home as part of Team Smash and equally as important the chance to be around and learn from a player of Brooks's stature. Like everyone who has ever played the game at the highest level, I have had competitive moments in the past that I feel I have let myself down and even others in our new team environment. This has been quite difficult for me. My challenges on and off the golf course with my mental health has been well documented. I deal with those challenges every day.
"However, while my 2023 season has not been all I had hoped for to this point, I have made positive strides in managing my life and feel Ike my game is turning for the positive. To hear through the media that our team leader has given up on me is heartbreaking. It’s not what a team member looks to hear from its leader, and I think we all know these comments should have been handled much differently. But I’m moving forward and won’t ever give up on myself. While on course results may not appear now to be positive indicators, I’m trying to win an even BIGGER game with my life.
"Finally, I trust Brooks wants what is best for our team. But it’s hard to imagine his comments in his recent SI interview in any way line up with those priorities. This will be my last comment on this matter. I’m heading out today to the Centurion Club trying to help our team win this week. I appreciate everyone’s continued support and your respect for my privacy."
Golf is a total mindfuck. I get where Matthew Wolff is coming from completely. Playing the game at the highest level is something I can't even really conceive of. The countless hours you have to put in to even get decent at the sport. Then if you thrive at such a young age like Wolff did coming up the amateur ranks, all those expectations on you just have to weigh a ton. I'm sure there's lots of monomaniacal, insular thought patterns that go on, so when shit hits the fan, bouncing back can be very, very hard.
Takes like these aren't totally unfounded…
I empathize with the guy, all right? And oh by the way, he's 24 years old. Got his whole life ahead of him. We're talking about a young man who was an All-American at Oklahoma State, the 2019 NCAA D-1 champion and picked up his first PGA Tour victory at the 3M Open in only his third start as a pro. Oh, and he has a runner-up U.S. Open finish and a T4 at the PGA Championship on his resume to boot.
With all those qualifiers out of the way, Brooks is totally right here in my opinion — even if going to the media before talking to his teammate wasn't the best move. Perhaps he'd already done that. Who knows?
Wolff has to understand that Brooks can be a little hyperbolic and, as his teammate, recognizes the immense talent and how much of a shame it'd be to throw it away. Not only does Wolff sport one of the funkiest, sauciest golf swings the game has ever seen, but among the Big Three of Collin Morikawa, Victor Hovland and himself, I think he has the highest ceiling of all of them. Yet…he's floundering and playing uninspired golf on the LIV circuit.
As destructive as this drama might be in the short term for Wolff, it's a WWE-style subplot LIV desperately needs. The team format hasn't really captured the attention of golf fans around the world. It may be a long time before it does. If I'm not mistaken, the winningest LIVer is Talor Gooch, who isn't exactly the biggest needle-mover. If I were the LIV powers that be, I'd encourage this type of infighting. Who cares if it's real or not? ENTERTAIN US.
Wolff is the legit, young, superstar-caliber player who could be a huge boost to LIV's profile. All he's done of late is fade into relative obscurity. From the sounds of it, he's on the precipice of his own mental abyss. By trying to pull him back from that edge, Brooks risks alienating Wolff even more. From my seat, there's an easy fix to this. Either park Wolff's sad boii ass on the couch and have him watch Brooks' early clips from Full Swing where he's questioning himself and whether he can still get it done, or just have a solid one-on-one sit-down chat.
Either way, Brooks can connect with Wolff about his own struggles in recent years, how he overcame them and they can become tighter teammates that way. Then, perhaps, we can get back to seeing Matthew Wolff ball the fuck out, hopefully talk some smack of his own, and create what could be LIV Golf's best one-two punch on a team.
Rooting for you, Wolff-Man. UNLEASH THE BEAST WITHIN!!