American golfer Brooks Koepka, who plays in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf, won the PGA Championship on Sunday. The strong performances by Koepka and other LIV golfers at major championships this year could help the league grow in its second season despite its TV rating struggles and growing rivalry with the PGA Tour.
Koepka won the major golf tournament by finishing two strokes ahead of second-place American golfer Scottie Scheffler and Norway’s Viktor Hovland. Koepka became the first member of LIV Golf to win one of the four annual “major” golf tournaments with the victory.
Several LIV golfers performed well at the PGA Championship. Bryson DeChambeau tied for fourth, while Cameron Smith tied for ninth. Rory McIlroy, perhaps the most vocal critic of LIV Golf on the PGA Tour, also played well, finishing tied for seventh place.
LIV Golf celebrated Koepka’s win on its Twitter account.
Brooks Koepka wins the PGA Championship 🏆
It’s his 3rd PGA Championship win and 5th Major victory#LIVGolf pic.twitter.com/onSaDdzVB2
— LIV Golf (@livgolf_league) May 21, 2023
DeChambeau also tweeted his congratulations to Koepka, and fans of LIV Golf celebrated the win on social media. The popular @LIVGolfNation tweeted, “The corrupt golf media HATES this,” in regards to Koepka’s win, a reference to the critics of LIV Golf in US golf media.
LIV Golf is majority owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The league launched last year and is a competitor to the PGA Tour — the dominant golf competition in the United States that hosts the eponymous PGA Championship each year. The tournament and the other major golf tournaments all decided that LIV Golf athletes could qualify to play this year.
Why it matters: A LIV golfer winning a major golf championship is an important milestone for the league. LIV Golf has been criticized by commentators as being a less prestigious competition than the PGA. Many of the world’s top golfers, including McIlroy and Scheffler, remain loyal to the PGA.
Brooks Koepka winning the PGA Championship after he & Phil finished 2nd at the Masters. A monumental last 6 weeks for the golf landscape. Brooks surpasses Rory in majors. A current LIV player wins a major for the 1st time. Implications are endless. What a time to be a #golf fan.
— Riggs (@RiggsBarstool) May 21, 2023
Koepka winning the PGA Championship is symbolic since the PGA has opposed LIV Golf more than the other majors have. His victory has also reinvigorated the LIV-PGA rivalry. Following the PGA Championship, golf commentator and virulent LIV critic Brandel Chamblee said a “rivalry” is brewing between the two leagues.
“You can’t deny that it provides a rivalry, an undercurrent of tension,” said Chamblee on NBC on Sunday.
Koepka’s win at the PGA Championship followed his and fellow LIV golfer Phil Mickelson tying for second at The Masters golf championship in April. The Masters is another major golf tournament.
LIV Golf could use the good publicity from Koepka’s win due to its poor TV ratings. LIV Golf finally landed a TV deal when the US CW Television Network agreed to air its tournaments this year. In late March, the league reported a 24% decrease in viewership to 409,000 average viewers for its tournament in the US state of Arizona. By comparison, The Masters was watched by more than 12 million people on average.
The poor ratings prompted LIV to actually stop reporting its TV viewership stats, Golf Magazine reported last week.
LIV Golf also received a legal setback in April when a US judge ruled the Public Investment Fund and its governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, were subject to discovery and depositions in the suit against the PGA.
A group of LIV Golf athletes sued the PGA Tour last year for suspending them following their move to LIV. The PGA filed a countersuit in response, and both cases are still pending.
Know more: The Saudi Public Investment Fund is increasing its investments in a variety of sports-related endeavors in addition to LIV Golf. Last week, the sovereign wealth fund increased its stake in the American video game giant Electronic Arts.