Brooks Koepka has become the latest big name to join LIV Golf, the controversial Saudi-backed breakaway tour. The four-time major winner will quit the PGA Tour and is slated to play in the series’ second event in Portland next week.
Koepka, a former World No 1 and four-time major winner, is among the most high-profile rebels to cross the divide of golf’s bitter civil war.
The 32-year-old joins the likes of Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Bryson DeChambeau and Lee Westwood — as well as his brother Chase, who played in this month’s inaugural event at Centurion Club near St Albans.
It means that nine of the past 22 majors have now been won by golfers who are part of Greg Norman’s rebel alliance and will play for a whopping £200million prize pot during the initial eight events.
Koepka, who is said to have been paid a vast sum to jump ship to the money-spinning tour, will now be banned from the PGA Tour. His future had been shrouded by uncertainty but only last week he hit out at speculation.
When quizzed on why he remained on the PGA Tour, he replied: ‘There’s been no other option to this point, so where else are you going to go? I’m here at the US Open and I think it kind of sucks, too, that you are all throwing this black cloud over the US Open.’
Koepka finished 55th in Brookline as Matt Fitzpatrick took the trophy. Abraham Ancer, the world No 20, has also joined LIV.
Brooks Koepka (above) is quitting the PGA Tour and is joining the controversial LIV Golf Series
The news also comes just months after he effectively labelled Phil Mickelson ‘greedy’ over his involvement in the new tour.
Koepka – who has earned £30.8million ($37.9m) in career prize money to date – will have commanded a seven-figure fee to sign up, similar to that of Johnson, who received a £120m ($150m) up-front fee.
Notably Koepka – who has won the US Open twice and the US PGA twice – removed ‘PGA Tour/Nike Athlete’ from his bio on Twitter last night.
Koepka will, according to The Telegraph, be announced as a new member of the Series ahead of the second event at Pumpkin Ridge in Portland, Oregon, next week.
For now, Koepka remains in the official field for the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour this week, as defectors to LIV have so far not been suspended by the PGA Tour until they have hit shots at a LIV event.
Ahead of last week’s US Open at Brookline, former World No 1 Koepka hit back when questioned about the Saudi-backed tour, insisting reporters were casting a ‘black cloud’ over the tournament.
‘I don’t understand. I’m trying to focus on the US Open, man. I legitimately don’t get it. I’m tired of the conversations. I’m tired of all this stuff,’ he said.
He called Phil Mickelson (right) ‘greedy’ over potential involvement in the new tour in February
Koepka – pictured with wife, actress Jena Sims – has earned $37.9million in career prize money
‘I’m here at the US Open, I’m ready to play the US Open, and I think it kind of sucks, too, you are all throwing this black cloud over the US Open. It’s one of my favourite events. I don’t know why you guys keep doing that. The more legs you give it, the more you keep talking about it.’
And back in February, when Mickelson was criticising the PGA Tour’s control of media rights as rumours swirled of his involvement with the Saudi-backed tour, Koepka called out what he saw as hypocrisy from his fellow American.
Mickelson said: ‘They [PGA Tour] also charge companies to use shots I have hit. And when I did ‘The Match’ — there have been five of them — the tour forced me to pay them $1million each time. For my own media rights. That type of greed is, to me, beyond obnoxious.’
Then, Koepka replied to the quotes on Instagram saying: ‘I don’t know if I’d be using the word greedy if I’m Phil.’
The 32-year-old after lifting the fourth of his four majors at the 2019 US PGA Championship
Mickelson was criticised as he took part in LIV Golf’s first event in St Albans earlier this month
According to the PGA Tour website, Koepka has earned $37.9million in career prize money to date. He is currently ranked No 19 in the world having suffered from a succession of injuries in recent years.
Players signing up to the LIV series have received criticism and have been widely condemned because of the human rights abuses carried out by the Saudi regime, which is financing LIV to the tune of $2billion.
Johnson, Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Sergio Garcia are among the other stars who have signed up to LIV Golf and they all played in the tour’s inaugural event at Centurion Club earlier this month, won by 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
Schwartzel took home £3.2m in prize money for his win at the 54-hole event, which is more than the £2.5m won by England’s Matt Fitzpatrick for triumphing at the US Open, one of golf’s traditional and most prestigious four major championships.
Dustin Johnson was the highest-ranked name to play in the inaugural LIV Golf event this month
Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter have also signed up to the controversial Saudi-backed tour
World No 20 Abraham Ancer has also joined the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational series.
The Mexico star will be among the field for the next invitational in Portland when it gets under way at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in Oregon on June 30.
Confirming Ancer’s participation, LIV golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said: ‘Abraham Ancer has been a rising star who’s established himself as one of the world’s top golfers in a very short period of time. He is a consistent contender who continues to elevate our competition.
‘We are thrilled to have him on board and look forward to having him in the field in Portland and beyond.’
LIV Golf chief Greg Norman has hit back at critics of the Saudi-backed LIV breakaway series
On Monday, LIV Golf chief Greg Norman hit back at critics of the Saudi-backed series and slammed the PGA Tour for its ‘deafening’ hypocrisy.
The PGA Tour banned rebel players with immediate effect moments after they teed off at Centurion earlier this month.
Meanwhile, famed US sports broadcaster Bob Costas described the huge cheques on offer to players – the first seven events have $20million purses – as ‘blood money’.
Former World No 1 Norman, 67, decided to speak out as the US Open drew to a close on Sunday.
The 67-year-old pictured with inaugural LIV Golf Invitational winner Charl Schwartzel (left)
‘I’m disappointed people go down that [blood money] path, quite honestly,’ Norman told Fox News.
‘Look, if they want to look at it in prism, then why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors doing 40-plus billion dollars’ worth of business with Saudi Arabia?
‘Why is it okay for the sponsors? Why is it okay that there’s a Saudi sponsor, Aramco, the largest sponsor of women’s golf in the world? Why is it okay for them? Why is it not okay for these players?
‘Will [PGA Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan go to each and every one of those CEOs of the 23 companies that are investing into Saudi Arabia and suspend them and ban them? The hypocrisy in all this, it’s so loud. It’s deafening.’