“We could either kill each other or it could be an awesome week,” said Brooks Koepka, who is pairing with his brother, Chase, at this week’s Zurich Classic.
Koepka got the Tour to grant his brother, 23, a special exemption to compete, as he isn’t a PGA Tour member. Chase played at USF and has teed it up on the European Tour in the past.
“We’ve definitely hurt each other’s feelings before, nothing we haven’t done,” Brooks Koepka said during their pre-tournament press conference, Tuesday. “It’s pretty relaxed. I’m pretty chill on the golf course. Nothing is really going to get to me. He might be in a few different spots than what he’s used to—behind some trees and not in the fairway every time—but other than that, we should be all right.”
“I know his strengths and weaknesses, he knows mine,” Chase Koepka said. Indeed. But you’re also, you know, brothers, and the possibility of an on-course sibling showdown is one of the week’s best storylines.
Which isn’t to suggest that there aren’t other great ones. Starting with the tournament itself. The Zurich Classic organizers’ decision to inject life into this slow portion of the calendar is bringing out the stars.
Really. This isn’t some glossy repackaging. The tournament features six of the world’s top nine golfers (Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler), and 13 of the top 25. Last year, only one player in the top 15 of the Official World Golf Ranking even teed it up anywhere between the RBC Heritage and the Valero Texas Open.
That’s pretty awesome, and the PGA Tour knows it.
“Just look at the players who are playing who haven’t played that event in the past,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said. “I think that a team format, team play, is a big part of this game, it always has been. You look at the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, World Cup, Solheim Cup, and it’s something the players love to participate in.”
With regards to the turn out, it definitely seems like it’s working. With regard to format, teams will play alternate-shot in rounds 1 and 3, and best-ball in Rounds 2 and 4. The field will be cut to low 35 teams and ties after Friday’s play. There hasn’t been a two-player team event on the PGA Tour since the 1981 Walt Disney World National Team Championship.
While OWGR points aren’t on the line, there’s plenty to play for. Both winning team members are credited with an official PGA Tour victory. They get the requisite two-year exemption that goes with it and 400 FedEx Cup points apiece. Oh, and each winning team member earn will be pocket $1.02 million bones.
So, there’s plenty for fans—and players—to be excited about this week in New Orleans. And we might get to see the Koepka brothers trading blows in the fairway.