One of the best things in sports is when generational talents from different generations show mutual respect and, if the older player is still playing as the younger player is coming up through the ranks and establishing himself as the best, when there are pass-the-torch moments on the field of competition.
But in golf, a sport rooted in genteel tradition, current No. 1 player in the world Brooks Koepka seems ill-interested in inheriting any sort of torch from the last generation’s greatest talent (and 2019 Masters winner), Tiger Woods.
Woods said Tuesday that Koepka won’t return his texts.
That’s not to say that the men have any sort of bitter feud brewing; as both are in Northern Ireland preparing to challenge the links of Royal Portrush for the upcoming British Open, each has said kind words about the other as a professional and as a person.
At a news conference Tuesday, Woods said, “Tell you a funny story. I texted Brooksy, congratulations on another great finish. What he’s done in the last four major championships has been just unbelievable. To be so consistent, so solid. He’s been in contention to win each and every major championship.
“And I said, ‘Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?’ I’ve heard nothing.”
It’s probably for the best on Koepka’s part. He has a secret weapon that in the hands of a formidable foe like Woods could come back to haunt him on championship Sunday, after all:
Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, is from Portrush, and the Open battlefield is his home ground.
Still, just because Koepka wouldn’t let Woods hang around was no reason for Tiger not to do some scouting.
He reportedly played seven holes of golf on the course Tuesday morning and then headed first to the driving range and then to the news conference where he told the story.
Woods also told reporters his game isn’t where he wants it to be.
“It’s not quite as sharp as I’d like to have it right now,” he said. “My touch around the greens is right where I need to have it. But I still need to shape the golf ball a little bit better than I am right now, especially with the weather coming in and the winds are going to be changing. I’m going to have to be able to cut the ball, draw the ball, hit it at different heights and move it all around.
“Today was a good range session. I need another one tomorrow — and hopefully that will be enough to be ready.”
Even though Woods and Koepka are among the favorites at Royal Portrush, they will have plenty of fierce competition over the course of the weekend.
For one thing, Rory McIlroy calls Northern Ireland home, and the rare chance to play the Open Championship in front of his countrymen means he’ll have the most fan support.
Louis Oosthuizen led the field in birdies at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, undone by his mistakes but ultimately good enough to finish tied for seventh.
Spaniard Jon Rahm has never won a major, but he finished third at Pebble Beach and recently won the Irish Open, so he too has to be considered among the favorites.
And even though Gary Woodland was atrocious in Detroit at the end of June, missing the cut in his tune-up tournament, he did win the U.S. Open.
But when it comes to being buddy-buddy on the golf course, Koepka and Woods will have to wait until after they’ve given their best at Royal Portrush before Koepka is returning Woods’ texts again.
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