Former OSU golfer Matthew Wolff says LIV captain Brooks Koepka calling him a quitter is ‘heartbreaking’

The Associated Press - July 8, 2023 12:39 pm

HEMEL HEMPTSTEAD, England (AP) — Matthew Wolff says it was “heartbreaking” to hear his LIV Golf captain Brooks Koepka call him a quitter, issuing a statement to Sports Illustrated on Friday that said he continues to deal with mental health challenges on and off the course.

“While my 2023 season has not been all I had hoped for to this point, I have made positive strides in managing my life and feel like my game is turning for the positive,” Wolff said in his statement to SI.

“To hear through the media that our team leader has given up on me is heartbreaking. It’s not what a team member looks to hear from its leader, and I think we all know these comments should have been handled much differently.”

It’s the first public conflict among the 48-man roster at Saudi-funded LIV Golf, which features four-man teams with a captain.

Wolff, who walked away from golf for two months in 2021 to cope with mental health, played for Phil Mickelson’s team in 2022 and switched over to Koepka’s team (Smash) this year. Wolff has only two top 10s this year — his best was a tie for fifth — and he came into LIV Golf-London having not finished among the top 30 in his last five LIV events.

Koepka, a three-time LIV winner who won the PGA Championship for his fifth major in May, unloaded on Wolff in an interview with SI earlier in the week.

“I mean, when you quit on your round, you give up and stuff like that, that’s not competing,” Koepka said. “I’m not a big fan of that. You don’t work hard. It’s very tough to have even like a team dynamic when you’ve got one guy that won’t work, one guy is not going to give any effort, he’s going to quit on the course, break clubs, gets down, bad body language, it’s very tough. I’ve basically given up on him. A lot of talent, but I mean the talent’s wasted.”

Wolff said in his statement it was “beyond disappointing” to read Koepka’s comment.

“When I chose to join his team in 2023, I did so with much optimism about my new home as part of Team Smash and equally as important the chance to be around and learn from a player of Brooks’ stature,” Wolff said. “Like everyone who has ever played the game at the highest level, I have had competitive moments in the past that I feel I have let myself down and even others in our new team environment. This has been quite difficult for me.

“My challenges on and off the golf course with my mental health has been well documented. I deal with those challenges every day.”

Wolff won the Jack Nicklaus Award in 2019 as the nation’s best college golfer when he was a sophomore at Oklahoma State. The California native turned pro and won on the PGA Tour in his third start. A year later, he had the 54-hole lead in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, finishing second to Bryson DeChambeau.

But he struggled in 2021 and walked away for two months.

“Mental health is a really big problem,” Wolff said when he returned that year at the U.S. Open. “Any professional athlete has to deal with a lot more stress and pressure than most people and it just kind of got to me. But I’ve been working on it, I’ve been learning and I think that’s all I can do.”

Wolff said in his statement that while his on-course results aren’t positive at the moment, “I’m trying to win an even BIGGER game with my life.”

And he had a parting shot for Koepka.

“Finally, I trust Brooks wants what is best for our team. But it’s hard to imagine his comments in his recent SI interview in any way line up with those priorities,” Wolff said.

He said it would be his last comment, and that he was going out to try to help his team win at LIV Golf-London.

Wolff shot a 73. Koepka had a 72. Smash was 11 shots out of the lead.

 

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