Brooks Koepka was upstairs in the private bar of a waterfront restaurant in Jupiter, Florida, describing a moment from the Masters last April when he literally stared down Tiger Woods. This was the Masters, if you avoid news of golf or sports or polarizing human redemption, that Tiger ultimately won, his first major championship in 11 years, and his first since his life and the game of golf were divided into Before and After (the affairs, the revelations, the injuries, the DUI arrest, Mac Daddy Santa, et cetera, et cetera). It was an extraordinary day in golf, and midway through the final round, there were still a number of players in contention, including Brooks Koepka, who had won three of the previous seven majors he'd played in.
This aspect of Koepka's success is unprecedented, especially for a pro who remains largely unknown outside the game. A 29-year-old from Florida, Koepka is built more like a baseball player than a golfer and is known for making people aware that he wishes he could've been the best in just about any other sport. He never dominated as a junior (like Rory McIlroy), or as a college player (like Phil Mickelson), or even as a young professional (like Jordan Spieth). In fact, when Koepka left Florida State in 2012, he didn't even qualify for the PGA Tour, instead playing the second-tier tour in Europe—sort of like going undrafted in basketball and spending a season in Greece. But quietly, confidently, with almost Terminator-like strength and single-mindedness, he had, by last April, forged himself into the most dominant player in the world. And here he was again, in contention on Sunday at a major, looking to spoil the Tiger Woods comeback story.
As both played through Amen Corner, the dramatic stretch of Augusta National where the 11th green, 13th tee, and entirety of the par-3 12th are in close proximity, Koepka was watching Woods over his shoulder and imagining Woods watching him. “I know it doesn't look like it,” Brooks said, acknowledging his reputation as an unthinking, unfeeling killer, “but my mind is turning the entire time I'm out there.” Processing all variables, tuning in to every other player on the course, a sponge for inputs. He hears everything you say about him on TV. He hears every little comment you make about his swing and his score and his body and his girlfriend when you're watching him live behind the ropes. He also seems to see every shot that any player within his vicinity hits, reading their reaction, squeezing what he can from their body language. “It's part of why I don't show emotion,” he said. “It gives the other guy an advantage.”
And so there they were, Brooks on the 12th tee, Tiger on the 11th green. As Koepka stood over his ball, the wind swirling in the treetops, he backed off his shot once. Then he flared a little 9-iron up into the breeze and watched his ball drop sharply out of the sky like a shot bird, landing in the creek that guards the green. It was a shocking error, and yet in his body language, on his face, there was…nothing. With a single mistake, Koepka had effectively ended his bid for a first green jacket. But instead of grimacing, he handed his club back to his caddie and yanked his sleeve routinely, as though he'd done precisely what he'd intended to do.
“My theory is if you don't show them anything visually, they can only go off one of their senses: sound,” he explained. “How did the ball sound when it came off? They don't know if I hit it a hundred percent or 90 percent. And they've gotta judge it by the strike.” But if he starts cursing or sulking, Tiger will know it was the shot, not the tricky wind, that foiled him—and calibrate his own approach to No. 12 accordingly. “And so I didn't have any reaction. I just handed it right back to my caddie. And it might've confused him.”
All that work for a might've.
This was a single shot in a single tournament, but it illustrates the extent to which Brooks Koepka will go to turn golf into any other sport. His game of gestures with Woods is more like the one-on-ones you get when a pitcher faces a batter or there's a penalty shot in soccer. There's a psychological school of thought in golf that players should compete only against the course, rather than other players. You can't control what anyone else is doing, the thinking goes, so it's a mistake to focus on anyone but yourself. Not Koepka. His entire M.O. is transforming the game into mano a mano. “It's one of those things in golf—you can't be very vocal, and you don't taunt,” he said. “It's not football, where you make a great tackle and you get up and stand over the guy: How'd that feel? You got rocked, didn't you? Better enjoy being on the ground. You can't do that in golf. And so you just find different ways to make guys second-guess themselves.”
At the year's next major, the PGA Championship, Koepka was asked about his extraordinary record in what are regarded as the four most difficult tournaments each year, as compared with his relatively modest success in ordinary PGA Tour events. “I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win,” he told reporters. “There's 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat. You figure about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just—pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys.”
Two days later, Brooks shot 63, tying the record for the lowest round ever in a PGA Championship. This was at Bethpage Black, the big and powerful public track on Long Island whose physique is the golf-course equivalent of Koepka's. Brooks followed the 63 with a 65 and held a seven-shot lead heading into both the third and the final rounds—all but collecting another “easy” major before the weekend even began. Nine starts. Four majors. Astonishing. Only 19 players in the history of golf have won more majors in their entire careers.
At the restaurant, I asked him if, as some suggest, he really only cares about the majors.
“Yeah. I mean, everybody should.” He sounded incredulous that any player could feel differently. “Those are my chances to shine.”
After drinks, as we came downstairs for dinner, Koepka scanned the dining room. Jupiter and its surrounds is one of the world's prime hubs for professional golfers—men, women, seniors, all. Good weather year-round. No state income tax. Rory McIlroy. Justin Thomas. Dustin Johnson. Rickie Fowler. Jack Nicklaus. Tiger Woods. And now longtime California holdout Phil Mickelson just announced he's relocating to Jup too.
Due to their neighborhood proximity, most of Koepka's generation hang out with one another socially, play practice rounds together, get swept up in money games with Michael Jordan. (Jordan owns this restaurant with a handful of pro golfers, including Koepka.) Earlier the manager of the restaurant had come by to make sure Koepka knew Gary Player—the famously fit 84-year-old South African, a nine-time major champion—was in the house, bouncing around, spry as ever: “You know, there's a guy over there who has more than double what you have.…” Always the majors; the major number is the major number.
Downstairs, Koepka stopped by Player's table to say hello.
When Koepka returned, I asked him what Player's golden advice was.
“Hit the gym.”
Koepka laughed. But he knows it's part of his thing. His body is football-adjacent, if not football-defined. Weights plus tequila. Gronk-ly. Trout-like. It's in the neck. He said he likes to go to LA Fitness or Planet Fitness when he's on the road, to get motivated by the other meatcicles in there “lifting and grunting and trying to outdo each other.” He took flak last season for dropping weight for seemingly no reason in the months leading up to the Masters. (It turned out he was prepping for a nude shoot for the ESPN Body Issue.) Still, the look plays into this idea of Koepka as first and foremost a physical force, capable of overpowering golf courses and competitors with strength and mechanical advantage, like a bulldozer. That machine efficiency has had the effect of edging his reputation toward boring.
I can see how it happened. He's a little wooden in interviews. He seems, for years, to have been a little concerned about saying the wrong thing. And then there were the moments—like the one I happened upon last summer while watching the U.S. Open—when you just go, Is this a joke? Is this psych-out jujitsu? Koepka had finished his third round on a chilly day at Pebble Beach, and the reporter mentioned the coffee he'd offered Brooks to warm up. Which is when Koepka informed him, stone-faced, that he'd never had a hot drink before.
“Not even hot chocolate?”
“No,” he said. “No hot chocolate. Never had one.”
And then it was back to the golf.
This perceived blankness contributes to why Koepka is still not a household name. Fans, announcers, sponsors—they like an abundance of passion, any direction you serve it. “It was so cold-blooded the way he'd win,” Chris Solomon, host of the popular No Laying Up podcast, told me. “It's hard to watch a player who's not giving you any sense as a viewer as to what this all means to him.”
“I just don't want to be that close with everybody I compete with,” Koepka said. “Like, I don't even have Rory's phone number. I didn't have Tiger's phone number for the longest time.”
Consequently, he was treated with steady indifference by golf's brokers, which deposited a nice little chip onto Koepka's shoulder. His big wins weren't treated with the same fanfare as when other, more popular players had success. He wasn't perceived as interesting, he felt, because no reporter had ever asked him an interesting question. He didn't really cuddle up to sponsors. He didn't really spend time buddying around with his playing competitors. He chose to define himself as a lone-wolf outsider.
“This might come across the wrong way,” he said of his relationship with other players on tour, “but I already have enough friends. I don't need any more. Just 'cause we work together doesn't mean we have to be friends. I've got enough friends. You know, I have my friends that aren't really into golf that much, and the only reason they're into golf is because they follow me. I like to be able to get away from the game.”
All this at a moment when it's become common for players to act more like teammates than opponents. More common for players to head down to the Bahamas for spring break together, rolling deep in a pack. To meet up for drinks in Jup at Square Grouper or The Woods (Tiger's spot, lit like Las Vegas) for a celebratory cheers after another top finish. Friends first, mortal enemies second. This is everything that is right and everything that is wrong with Koepka's generation on tour, depending on whom you ask.
“I just don't want to be that close with everybody I compete with,” Koepka said. “Like, I don't even have Rory's phone number. I didn't have Tiger's phone number for the longest time. Like, I just never saved it.… I'll text guys after they win, you know, but I'm still competitive. I still get mad—I mean, I'm happy for them, but I'm still like, Man, that should've been me. Or: That could've been me. You know, you still just lost.”
“Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn't always have to be that way,” Koepka said.
According to Justin Thomas (world No. 4), Koepka is the most difficult guy in Jupiter to get out for a practice round or a money game. That sort of resistance fuels one of the other things people say about Koepka, which is that he doesn't seem to practice as much as everyone else. I love this one, because I can tell that Koepka loves it too. There doesn't seem to be much validity to the claim, but it reminds me of when certain kids in school relished their reputation for getting top marks without studying. That reputation is fueled by comments he makes, like the one above, about getting far away from golf when he's not competing. Or about avoiding his clubs for long stretches between tournaments. Or when he shows up later than everyone else—as he did before the final round of a tournament he won in July—and heads straight to the first tee with minimal time spent on the practice range. (He told me he'd warmed up at home, what's the big deal?) All of it contributes to this sense that there's a duality to Koepka's desires: a need, on the one hand, to reign supreme, and a hope, on the other, to eschew the nerdy association he has with this dumb game he happens to be literally the best in the world at.
“If I could do it over again, I'd play baseball—100 percent, no doubt,” he said in the past. “To be honest, I'm not a big golf nerd. Golf is kind of boring, not much action. I come from a baseball family, and it's in my blood.”
In this way, Koepka's attitude reminds me of Happy Gilmore's—I'm a hockey player, but I'm playing golf today. But that attitude can turn the players and fans whose love of golf is less complicated than Koepka's off to him. “It is a crazy mystery that we don't seem to root for him. Except that he just comes off as being too cool for school,” No Laying Up's Solomon said. “I think he's just tortured that he is a golfer, hard as he tries to pretend that he's more than that.” And yet, when you're on top, you're on top, and the extraordinary success has brought Koepka a new spotlight, a new megaphone, and a new position of power from which to level legitimate criticism at the game. “Brooks Koepka no longer gives a fuck,” Solomon continued. “And for at least a period of time in the beginning of his career, he felt like he had to pretend like he gave a fuck. Now he's one of the few people using his platform to speak out on issues and not have any problem really ruffling feathers.”
He has, for example, taken the most vocal position against slow play on tour. As with some other sports, slow play is strangling fan engagement. But the game's culture of restraint suggests that the conflict will never come to a head because “a lot of players just don't have the balls to actually [say anything],” Koepka said. “Golf's just not a confrontational sport.… If you look at who's playing golf, you're not gonna get the guys who are confrontational.”
When Koepka practices by himself at home—which he does often; he'll play three balls and always play the worst of the three (a golf equivalent of running with weights)—he can finish an 18-hole round in an hour and 45 minutes. On tour, a round can take five hours. To manage in a tournament, he said, “I'll just go sit in the bathroom for a minute. I don't have to go to the bathroom.” But finding ways to kill time is the only way to stay sane. When Koepka called out slow play in an interview at the end of the summer, one of the tour's slower players, Bryson DeChambeau, took exception and told Koepka's caddie that Brooks could say it to his face. Shortly thereafter, Koepka basically did. When a newly swole Bryson made a comment about Koepka not having abs, Koepka tweeted a photo of his four major championship trophies with the caption: “You were right @b_dechambeau I am 2 short of a 6 pack!”
“Hockey, you go to blows and then sit in the box for a couple minutes,” Koepka said. “Golf's just held to a different standard. Because it's supposed to be a gentleman's sport. And that's where I think they lose a lot of people. They just do.”
The next day we were sitting on the patio out back at Brooks's house in Jupiter, about 15 minutes from where he grew up, in West Palm Beach, close enough to home that he practices at some of the courses he played as a kid, close enough that the hostess at the restaurant last night went to high school with him. He was kicked back in a T-shirt and shorts and slides, a lipper of Kodiak in, spit bottle in hand. His dog, Cove, was running around the yard.
The house sits on the big river that heads out to the ocean, and his boat was tied up on a nice little private dock, just like everyone in the neighborhood did it. There was the pool that his girlfriend, Jena, often poses around for Instagram. Inside there were the four major championship trophies, on pedestals right at the base of the stairs. There were pictures of Brooks and Jena all around. Photos on the wall of pink palm trees. A “save the date” on the fridge for world No. 2 Jon Rahm.
We were talking about the fact that it seemed as though he'd been commenting more often and openly over the past year. I asked if there'd been a conscious shift.
“It's not a shift of wanting to talk,” he said. “It was just for a while the only thing that people would ask me was about horsemeat in Kazakhstan.” (A relic anecdote from his seasons overseas.) “I have opinions on all these different things in golf, but no one's ever asked me about them.”
All right, I said, let's go.
“One thing I'd change is maybe the stuffiness. Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn't always have to be that way. That's part of the problem. Everybody always says, ‘You need to grow the game.’ Well, why do you need to be so buttoned-up? ‘You have to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ‘You're not allowed in here unless you're a member—or unless the member's here.’ Really? I just never really liked the country club atmosphere. I know that drives a lot of people away from liking me. But just 'cause this golf club has such prestige and the members are all famous and have a lot of money…like, why can't I show up and just go play the golf course? Why do I have to sit in my car and wait for the member?
“I just think people confuse all this for me not loving the game. I love the game. I absolutely love the game. I don't love the stuffy atmosphere that comes along with it. That, to me, isn't enjoyable. When I practice, I don't think I've ever tucked my shirt in. I show up to the golf course, half the time my tennis shoes are untied, I'm chippin', puttin', shirt's untucked, I've got my hat on, and I'm not wearing a belt, because who wears a belt when it's untucked? But a lot of clubs, if I walked up like that, it'd be: ‘Sir, you need to tuck your shirt in. You need to take your hat off when you get in here.’ ”
They would still say it to even you?
“Oh yeah. For sure. I've been told that. That's just not my style of place. I'm not saying no rules is the answer. But it's like, you want everyone to enjoy themselves when they're there, you don't want to feel like you're walking on eggshells when you arrive at the golf course. I don't like feeling like I'm walking on eggshells everywhere I go.”
I brought up last year's Tour Championship when Koepka was wearing Off-White golf shoes, replete with plastic zip tie. The announcers had a tough time parsing what was going on. Koepka told me some guy even called into the TV network to suggest that the shoe tag might be a rule-breaching alignment tool. In the presser after the round, Koepka was asked about the shoes. “It's fashion, bro,” he replied. “This is such, like, typical golf nerd, 40-year-old white man—I don't know how to explain that. It's Off-White. It's fashion.”
Koepka's criticism of golf elicits considerable criticism from golf. One of the game's top commentators, Brandel Chamblee, comes in often for Koepka, citing a sense of disrespect at times and ignoring him completely when discussing whose game could challenge Tiger's as the best in the world, like Rory McIlroy's or Dustin Johnson's could. (Koepka responded by tweeting a photo of Chamblee in a clown nose.) Or more subtly, take this line of criticism from former player and TV analyst Brad Faxon. In October, Faxon drew a distinction between golf talent and golf passion: “What's the definition of a golfer?” he said on No Laying Up. “To me a golfer is someone that lives and breathes the game throughout their lives.… Rory would be a golfer. Arnold Palmer was a golfer. I would say Koepka and Jack, they were competitors—they played golf, but they wouldn't notice the logo on your belt or my shirt and go, Oh, you're a member at Pine Valley.”
Faxon couldn't have known how perfect an example it would be. Brooks Koepka does not seem to spend much time studying the logos of male-only country clubs. But it's a valid assessment that constantly criticizing the elements of golf that bug you most—namely other golfers, who are themselves the most devoted fans—would make your own love of golf difficult to grasp fully.
So I wanted to give Koepka a chance to say precisely what it is he loves.
“I like the fact that I learn something every time I play. You can go mess around and find some new shot. No matter what you do, you're never going to have the same shot again. You could have the same yardage, but it's never going to be the same wind. Even if you put the pin location in the same hole, the exact hole location, and I went out and hit a ball and a month later came back and literally put it in the grass in the same divot and the pin was in the same spot, it'd be a different shot. And I always think that that's just so cool.
“I love it,” he went on, “but I know how to break away from it. That's where the confusion lies. Or maybe the misconception of me lies. I absolutely love the game. If I didn't love it, I'd retire right now. Don't take me wrong, but I could go off and nobody would ever see me again and I could live a great life. I do it because I actually love golf. I love going to practice, to compete, to tournaments, grinding it out even when you don't have your best, trying to figure out a way to get it done—that's fun to me. But the one thing that I've been very good at is breaking away from the game when I need to.”
While I sat back watching Koepka talk, I was marveling at the way he defies easy categorization. He's more like a loosely tied package of several other sorts of dominant athletes. But with a syrupy chill slathering the whole thing. It must be the Florida of it all. The fisherman thing. The I-never-wear-sunscreen thing. The thing that makes someone want to spend his days off getting broiled on a boat, drinking canned beer. There's that mixed with the athletic swagger of someone who, in protesting the utter normalcy of his daily life and the trouble he's had getting comfortable with fame, can start a sentence, “Sure, I'm the best in the world at what I do, but—” Someone who is literally incapable of imagining losing, even while he's losing. There's all that mixed still further with the social awkwardness of a low-grade loner. The sort of loner one must be inherently to become as great as someone like Koepka. Think of Kobe in the gym shooting 1,000 jump shots a day. Think of Federer with a hitting partner on a snowy mountaintop in Switzerland. Or Tiger on the range, first to rise and last to leave, for 40 years and counting.
We heard a plane overhead, and Koepka mentioned that the nearby airport is the one that Trump flies into when he comes down to Mar-a-Lago.
Now is a good time to mention that Donald Trump fucking loves Brooks Koepka. E.g.:
I…couldn't agree more. I knew, before spending time with Brooks, that Trump had been chasing him, trying to get a round on the books. And I dreaded, for much of our time together, that Brooks might say something a little MAGA-ish, a little ink in the drinking water. I would've felt just as anxious around any pro golfer. Golf, after all, tests our values considerably. And yet think of how many golfers exist in your life in spite of everything. In spite of all of the country club bullshit that Brooks decries. In spite of the class antagonism. In spite of the garish in-versus-out-ism in a society when Americans of all stripes loathe elitism. In spite of the gross manipulation of zoning laws and tax codes. In spite of gratuitous water usage in the face of environmental devastation. In spite of the fact that there are still clubs in this country where women aren't allowed. In spite of the fact that the most famous golf course in America did not host a black player at the Masters until 1975 or invite a female member to join until 2012. In spite of the fact that pretty much every golf hero—from Jack Nicklaus to Tom Watson to Ernie Els to Tiger Woods—makes no bones about playing golf with Donald Trump when they are invited out to one of his clubs.
And yet the political turn, as with so many other things with Brooks, swerved a way I didn't quite expect. He'd met four out of the five living presidents, he said, including Obama on the course at nearby Floridian.
“I don't care what anybody says—that was the coolest thing,” he said. “Not to get into politics—like, I don't agree with everything that Obama did during his presidency—but to this day, I think that it was the coolest thing ever. Top five highlights of my life so far, that was one of them. Meeting him as a sitting U.S. president.”
I asked him if he'd said “I don't care what anybody says” because of the politics of the area—and of so much of golf.
“I respect the office, I don't care who it is,” he said. “Still probably the most powerful man in the entire world. It's a respect thing. That's what I don't understand about the teams that don't go to the White House. It's still…” He trailed off, caught himself. “Like, if I see an older man, it's Yes, sir or mister. I wouldn't be like, Hey, Jack, what's up? It's like, Hey, Mr. Nicklaus, how are you? Out of respect. Doesn't matter who it is.”
Over the holidays, Trump and Koepka finally made it happen. Brooks, his father, his brother, and the president—at Trump's course in West Palm. “I mean, we had a blast,” he told me on a phone call from Saudi Arabia in late January. “It was nice to have my family there, my dad, my brother. Anytime it's with a president, it's pretty cool. I don't care what your political beliefs are, it's the president of the United States. It's an honor that he even wanted to play with me.”
It was late afternoon. Brooks was at the wheel of Jena's vintage seafoam drop-top Bronco, and I was following close behind. The canopy of palm fronds created a nice little strobe effect of shadow as we cruised over to Medalist for a practice session. Brooks's caddie, Ricky Elliott, a Northern Irishman who's been on the bag for much of Brooks's pro career, was riding shotgun with Koepka. The whole thing made me chuckle a little, chasing No. 1 around town in Barbie's Beach Party Cruiser.
When we pulled up to the security hut at Medalist, something happened that hadn't even occurred to me as being possible. Medalist was closed for the day, and there wasn't any way Brooks or Ricky (or Dan) would be permitted access to the driving range or golf course. I've been denied access to enough golf courses in my life that it didn't really shock me in the moment, but as we drove 30 minutes in the opposite direction to another club, I let the indignation creep in. A golf course just denied access to the No. 1 golfer in the world, as though it were a perfectly ordinary thing to do, which apparently it was. Still, I tried to imagine the security guard at Yankee Stadium denying Derek Jeter batting practice. Or the high school A.D. with the keys to the gym denying LeBron James a shootaround. Wild. And precisely what Brooks had been referring to when he was lamenting all the things that golf gets so absurdly wrong at this critical juncture for the game. What side of society do you want to be on? The one that makes sense? The one that's open and inclusive? Or the one that's rigid, pedantic, exclusionary, stuffy—all for the sake of, what, the enforcement of rules for the sake of rules? It was a buzzkill. I was worried that after all our time together, the sun was going to set before I got to see Brooks Koepka hit a single golf shot.
Koepka began to take shape in my mind as something quite powerful beyond just his capacity to win major championships. Something more like a new populist golf hero.
But soon we were parked and out on the driving range at the Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm, and without as much as a warm-up lunge, Brooks was flighting wedges, and then 7-irons, and then drivers to the back of the range.
What to say about what it's like to watch Brooks Koepka strike a golf ball?
First thing to say is that there is a trick of the eye. Koepka's size and strength are such that they provide an awkward context for perceiving the speed and power that his body generates. A better way of saying that is everything looks slow. It's sort of like when the moon is way down on the horizon and appears giant. Here this big powerful body was moving with such tightly coiled efficiency that it looked light, breezy, unviolent. The sound was extraordinarily crisp. The ball was halfway to its target, seemingly, before I even perceived contact. I was reminded of Tiger's former longtime caddie, Steve Williams, commenting, upon first watching Koepka, that he'd seen only one other golfer besides Tiger strike the ball as extraordinarily as Brooks.
The other thing I can say: Compared with an average golfer, the effect of Brooks hitting a golf ball is the difference between a flare gun and a rifle.
Brooks talked about coming here when he was a kid. It was one of the first country clubs that gave him some playing privileges as a junior. It was a reminder, as there had been many, that Brooks is not one of those tour stars whose father was the club pro growing up. I hesitate to put too much on him, but his talk of triple-pleated khakis, his edging up to some dangerous ideas in golf, began to shape him in my mind as something quite powerful beyond just his capacity to win major championships. Something more like a new populist golf hero. The next day I went out to Okeeheelee, the public course where Brooks and his brother grew up playing, and I played a lightning-fast 18—just the way Brooks would want it—to see if I could glean anything from the turf. Not much. Except I did from the guy in the cart shack. “You know, Koepka grew up here,” he said. There was pride there, not just pride in the local kid made good, but pride in his being a product of the muni.
But for now, we were still just out there on the range at Bear Lakes—me, Brooks, and Ricky. Brooks's brother, Chase, was around somewhere too, and they were gonna try to squeeze some golf in, even though the sun was about to set. On our way to the first tee, Brooks and Ricky drove straight through the conclusion of a girls' high school match. His high school, it turned out. The whole group clustered to take pictures with him. He gladly obliged. This was a big day for them. The No. 1 golfer in the world was just hanging out at their course. I can't imagine.
On the first hole, I met Chase. Four years younger, a fledgling pro himself. He looked like a little brother. Like Brooks if you let a little air out of the balloon. They hadn't played together in months. This was a special treat. I hung back with Ricky as Brooks, Chase, and one of Chase's buddies ripped through the first hole. It was almost dark. Then they pounded a few drives deep down the second fairway, and I let them head out on their own. There was no daylight left, but I was certain they'd play well into darkness. Because what I was watching that evening, cracking a driver into the setting sun on a nothing nobody no-stakes Tuesday, was a person playing golf like he really truly loved it.
Daniel Riley is a GQ correspondent.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2020 issue with the title “The World's Best Golfer Has Some Issues With Golf.”
Photographs by Brian Finke
Styled by Lucy Armstrong
Produced by Marco Mavridis
Originally Appeared on GQ