Given that golf information not involving Tiger Woods stays primarily a distinct segment concern, it got here as a shock to see the extent to which Koepka’s interview penetrated mainstream tradition. National media reported on the incident with delight, and the clip was considered thousands and thousands of instances on-line. Memes cropped up like ragweed. The entire affair even eclipsed the precise victor that week: Phil Mickelson, who at 50 became the oldest player ever to win a major championship. That achievement was, we thought, simply concerning the largest non-Tiger story the game may generate. But Koepka’s expression, it appeared, tapped into one thing common; his sheer annoyance transcended the sport.
A week later, over on the planet of tennis, the most important information of the 2021 French Open additionally emerged from exterior the competitors itself. Just earlier than the event, the second-seeded Japanese famous person, Naomi Osaka, announced that she was unwilling to attend the occasion’s obligatory information conferences, citing emotions of melancholy and nervousness associated to these obligations. And when officers pushed again, threatening punitive measures past the fines Osaka anticipated, she known as their bluff, withdrawing from the event after her first-round victory. Not solely did the Open lose an off-court stare-down with one of the game’s premier sights, however — in an echo of Mickelson’s win — hardly anybody was paying a lot consideration to what was occurring on the courtroom itself. Tournament officers would clearly have most popular for all this to be ironed out behind closed doorways, however as Osaka continued to prosecute her case on social media, the story spun additional and farther from their management.
That’s what occurred with the Brooks-Bryson face-off as effectively. After Koepka’s fusillade of swearing, the Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis, who was conducting the interview, joked that “we’re going to enjoy that in the TV compound later” — suggesting the phase would by no means make it to air, however can be shared among the many media staff who make golf seem so effectively mannered. To which Koepka replied, “I honestly wouldn’t even care.”
For these used to following rough-and-tumble staff sports activities like soccer or hockey, it might be troublesome to understand simply how norm-breaking conduct like this may be. Even because the video dominated headlines, the game’s outdated guard hastened to downplay it. No much less an august determine than Jack Nicklaus dismissed the rivalry as “media driven,” which is true largely within the sense that Koepka and DeChambeau have certainly repeatedly used the media to specific how a lot they genuinely dislike one another. The sport’s dread of confrontation is constructed on a century-old anthropologist’s dream of class-driven mores, but when the favored response to Koepka’s face in that interview makes one factor clear, it’s that these golfers aren’t those performing bizarre. Golf itself is.
Tennis, too. The French Open officers’ makes an attempt to make Osaka adjust to media guidelines are in some methods comprehensible: They have commitments to reporters and sponsors, and excusing one participant from her obligations whereas requiring others to satisfy them may, arguably, create a aggressive imbalance. (In the sort of improvement you could possibly hardly make up, the event’s 11th-seeded participant, Petra Kvitova, quickly injured her ankle throughout a information convention and needed to withdraw.) What feels unusual is their evident perception that they might prevail at a time when their leverage has by no means been much less in proof. Osaka made some $50 million final 12 months and first introduced her refusal to do press to round 2.four million followers on Instagram. She’s no nice lover of clay courts, and it’s possible her expectations for achievement on the event had been modest to start with. And but tennis apparatchiks appear to have assumed she would fall in line for a similar motive golf ones presumed Koepka’s interview can be quietly handed round a non-public room: as a result of that’s the executed factor.