Sports

Brooks Koepka Says PGA Stars Need Galleries so They Don’t Lose Balls

Brooks Koepka doesn’t come off sounding like a whiner when he discusses the issue, but the PGA Tour veteran does have a peculiar reason why he is going to find it a bit difficult to be at his best when tournament play resumes in June.

In fact, Koepka listed two concerns and probably has a point on one of them. But he’ll get no sympathy in light of the more meaningful ways that the coronavirus pandemic has affected average Americans.

The PGA Tour intends to restart in early June

The PGA Tour has been on hiatus since the first round of the Players Championship on March 12.

Tour officials announced Thursday that they believe they’ll resume holding tournaments beginning with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, from June 11-14. The next stops would be June 18-21 for the RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and June 25-28 for the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut.

The action would continue in Detroit and then Silvis, Illinois, the following two weekends before reaching Dublin, Ohio, for the Memorial Tournament founded by Jack Nicklaus.

At a minimum, the first four tournaments are projected to be held without galleries because of the logistics of maintaining social distancing practices when large crowds are present.

The sounds of silence await Brooks Koepka

Golfers are criticized for stepping away from putts after being distracted by the slightest of noises even though baseball players seem to have no issues with hitting 98 mph fastballs when 45,000 fans are shouting, stomping their feet, and moving around. The difference, of course, is that the single cough from alongside the green as the golfer is about the address a putt breaks the silence and therefore the concentration.

Brooks Koepka has a different concern. Koepka, who has won two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships in the past three years, says he will miss the adrenaline that galleries bring to tournaments.

“The energy that the fans bring, that’s what we all live for, we all strive for,” Koepka said on the “Pardon My Take” podcast. “You want to play coming down the stretch and have everyone cheering for you. Imagine this: You sink the putt on the last hole and no one’s clapping. You’re just there by yourself, and you’re like, ‘Yes!’ Just you, your caddie, and just silence.”

The seven-figure payday associated with winning almost any tournament on the men’s tour certainly helps ease the disappointment.

Brooks Koepka’s other reason that golfers need galleries

Spectators and television viewers always remember the beautiful 300-yard drives down the middle of the fairway and the approach shots with flawless backspin that check up 12 feet past the pin and then roll to within tap-in range.

Brooks Koepka would like to remind you that, statistically speaking, one golfer in every threesome is likely to spray his tee shot into the woods, sand, water, or rough. Lee Trevino used to joke about roughs so deep that he’d lay down his bag to look for his ball and end up losing his clubs.

Koepka, Rory McIlroy, and Jason Day are examples of highly ranked competitors who didn’t finish in the top 100 in PGA Tour driving accuracy last season. Each found the rough or hazards a little more than 38% of the time off the tee.

That’s where the gallery comes in handy. If spectators aren’t being struck by errant shots, thereby keeping the ball out of the deeper rough, they’re giving golfers other assistance.

“Every once in a while, we just hit some foul balls and the fans kind of help you find it,” he said. “I mean, guys are going to lose balls because of that.”

A total of 193 golfers banked $250,000 or more in official earnings last season. We’re pretty sure they can swing through the pro shop and pick up an extra sleeve of balls on the way out to the first tee.