Koepka Versus Chamblee and Other Whine Club Selections

Chris Dufresne

Truth is, as a society, we’ve become softer than a royal baby’s bum.

We tear up over cat memes and whimper every Christmas while watching “Love Actually.”

Since when should we not question things?

Golf announcer Brandel Chamblee, whose name sounds cushier than a brand of toilet wipes, had the nerve to hold off on the canonization of Brooks Koepka.

Pro golfers jumped on Chamblee, like John Daly on a plate of cookies, for having a professional opinion.

In the words of Joan Rivers: grow up.

Athletes have become such whiners they’ve started their own newspaper, The Players Tribune, years after Bob Knight told us “All of us learn to write in second grade. Most of us go onto greater things.”

Athletes are challenging sportswriters, Michigan fans and Star Wars memorabilia collectors as society’s most chronic complainers.

I say it is our sworn duty to challenge, poke, offend, play devil’s advocate and spit into a Santa Ana wind.

Some men see things as they are and ask why; I dream things that never were and ask: Who in the hell is running the Lakers (into the ground)?

Wednesday, staring out my window, contemplating how this story was going to end, I saw some bees buzzing around a plant in my side yard.

I wondered: why do bees pollinate? Then looked it up on Google.

A nice man came to my front door last week, wanting to talk about God. I spoke to him for 20 minutes and wondered where Jesus would weigh in on undocumented immigrants. I also said I'd be fine with Jesus coming back—the sooner the better.

It should not also be a sin to inquire at the Marriott front desk, in a half-empty hotel, why they jam elite-member guests into rooms next to each other?

I’ve always liked Magic Johnson more than Earvin Johnson…there, I said it.

We learned this week that $2.5 million of Pac 12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s $5 million salary came in the form of “bonus” compensation.

Some may ask: Bonus for what?

Question for Twitter: Why did I lose my verification check after leaving the L.A. Times? Am I no longer a journalist worth trusting?

I prefer to live in a a world where Pee Wee Herman can shout down bikers at a bar: “I’m TRYING to use the phone!”

Admittedly, strong opinion not backed by research, can go horribly wrong.

TNT’s Charles Barkley recently said Golden State couldn’t win a game after losing Kevin Durant to a calf injury.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, last December, told us how important tight end Hunter Henry was going to be in a game involving the Chargers. (Henry tore his ACL last summer and was out for the year).

Flash forward to last Sunday’s final round of the PGA at Bethpage Black.

How dare anyone question the greatness Brooks Koepka?

Homer television coverage deemed it a crime, punishable by death or another Peter Kostis swing breakdown on the Konica Minolta, that anyone should find it odd that four of Koepka’s six PGA wins are major championships.

Why can’t that completely oddball statistic warrant closer inspection before we put Koepka into the country club cloak room of all-time greats? Shouldn't he have a "green jacket" in that room?

I’m with the “not yet” crowd.

Chamblee has every right to be wrong about Koepka. He’s said some silly things but also admitted the errors of his ways.

“He’s made a believer out of me,” Chamblee said.

That is possibly more mature than Koepka posting an image of Brandel wearing a clown’s nose.

Why should Koepka care, anyways, what Chamblee thinks?

That said, it’s not unfair to set a high bar for all-time greatness.

On this subject I’ll go with Gary Player.

I was lucky enough, a few years ago, during the L.A. Open, to have lunch with Player in the Riviera dining room.

Player nibbled on a salad while I bombarded him with questions.

Player is one of the most opinionated straight shooters who ever also hit a golf ball straight. The South African won nine majors, 24 times on the PGA Tour and 165 times worldwide.

I asked if he thought Billy Casper was an underrated player who got lost in the 1960s shadow of Player, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. They were known as The Big Three.

Player looked me in the eye and said “How many majors did Casper win.”

The answer: three.

Player said his baseline for golf “greatness” was six majors.

Me: “What about Phil Mickelson, who has five majors?”

Player flashed a telling smile.

Greatness, to Gary Player, is an exclusive club.

Here’s the thing: Billy Casper finished with 51 PGA career victories.

Koepka, who just turned 29, has won four majors and two other events: Phoenix Open and the CJ Cup.

Context, however, is everything in analyzing Koepka.

It is unfair to compare his performance-to-date with the two kingpins of his sport, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

Those child stars got early-twenties, rolling starts on the PGA tour and have amassed incredible numbers over a long career.

Nicklaus has 18 majors and 73 PGA wins, while Tiger has won 15 and 81.

Koepka’s early career is more comparable to that of Arnold Palmer, who played college golf at Wake Forest and then served time in the Coast Guard.

Palmer was 25 when he won his PGA event, the 1955 Canadian Open.

Keopka was 25 when won his first PGA event, the Phoenix Open, in 2015.

So, let’s look at those players at similar career points.

In his first five years on tour, Palmer claimed 13 PGA events including one major, the 1958 Masters.

Koepka has four majors and six overall victories.

What Koepka does in the next five years will likely define his place in history.

Palmer went on an absolute tear from 1960 through ’64, winning six majors and 31 total PGA events.

Koepka, clearly, has to pick up his pace in non-major events.

Even he admitted that Sunday after winning his second PGA, the only major Arnold Palmer never won.

“I mean, I’ve played great a lot of times,” Koepka said. “I’ve just finished second so many times. I think that’s—second sucks, but I’ve played good every time. So I need to take it over to regular Tour events and start winning there, too. There’s no reason I can’t.”

Koepka, at this point in his career, is “freakishly” great.

We get that major titles have become THE most important because Jack Nicklaus decided they should be.

He was obsessed with surpassing the 12 major championships established by Bobby Jones.

The rest is the history Jack wrote.

Then came Tiger Woods, obsessed with Nicklaus, who made it his life’s mission to surpass Jack to the point of arranging his entire (and limited) schedule around The Masters, US Open, British Open and PGA.

Woods has won 15 majors with a laser focus around four weeks a year.

But here’s the thing: Tiger and Jack also won in “the off weeks.”

Nicklaus, in his first five years on tour, won six majors and 20 total events. Tiger, in his first five years, won five majors and 24 PGA events.

Koepka needs to get on his career horse.

How he stacks against his contemporaries:

Rory McIlroy, who just turned 30, won four majors and nine total PGA events in his first five years on tour. But McIlroy also split time on the PGA European tour.

--Jordan Spieth, who turns 26 in July, has won three majors and 11 events in his first five years.

Koepka has every chance to rapidly race up the list of all-time major winners.

Yet, on the all-time PGA wins list, he is currently surrounded by golf announcers: Gary Koch (six), Roger Maltbie (five) and, drum roll please, Brandel Chamblee (four professional wins, one PGA).

We’ll defer to Gary Player and say call us after Koepka wins his sixth major. And oh--that call could come as early as August.

Until then we’ll continue to study the fascinating anomaly of a man who might surpass Tiger in total majors with four other PGA wins.

Just asking: would that make Brooks greater than Tiger?


Chris Dufresne