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Koepka secures biggest payday

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia (AFP) — Four-time major-winner Brooks Koepka secured the biggest payday of his career with a $4 million playoff win over close friend Peter Uihlein on the Saudi-funded LIV Golf breakaway tour on Sunday.

Koepka’s birdie on the Jeddah Invitational’s third play-off hole cost Uihlein an eye-watering $5.875 million as it denied him the winner’s prize plus $8 million for second place in the season standings.

Uihlein can console himself with $4 million for third place this season, plus $2.125 million for second place on Sunday and $750,000 for winning the team event alongside Koepka.

Koepka can also add $750,000 to his winnings for the team victory. The 2017-2018 US Open and 2018-2019 PGA Championship winner was emotional afterwards, revealing he had feared for his career while battling injury.

“The last two years haven’t been fun — it’s been a long road,” said Koepka, 32.

“I didn’t know if my career was over for half a second. I wasn’t sure if I was going to play so it’s nice to be able to come back and be able to win.”

The $25 million tournament in King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah, was the first LIV stop in Saudi Arabia and the last individual event of a debut season that has split the golf world.

Koepka, who wrecked his knee in 2021 and has also had hip problems, said he would honor his pledge to buy his brother and team-mate, Chase, a
lime-green sports car for winning the team title.

“I told my brother I’d buy him a Lambo (Lamborghini) if we won the team thing, so now, I’ve got to go buy one,” he said.

Koepka’s winnings far outstrip his prizes for any of his major titles. He took home $2.16 million from the US Open in 2017 and 2018, and $1.98 million from each of his PGA Championship victories.

Uihlein began the day one shot ahead of Koepka and from the shotgun start, the former Challenge Tour room-mates dueled their way around the course on a hot day of stiff breezes and scant birdies.

Arriving at the 18th, their final hole, they were in a four-way tie for the lead but they both birdied to head into the play-off and leave Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann behind.

Uihlein escaped from a greenside bunker twice to take it to a third hole but then, from an awkward lie in the sand, he wedged over the green and into the water to leave Koepka with two putts for the win.

Uihlein, 33, stood to win $12.75 million, nearly tripling his PGA Tour career earnings if he had seen out the victory.

LIV’s arrival as a deep-pocketed rival to the US PGA Tour and Europe’s DP World Tour has divided golf, its players, and its fans, with critics calling it a “sportswash” of Saudi’s human rights record.

This week’s tournament, the first on Saudi soil, coincided with a political row between Washington and Riyadh over cuts in oil production by the Saudi-led OPEC+ grouping.

Tiny crowds at the Royal Greens course in King Abdullah Economic City, a remote development north of Jeddah, have not helped LIV live up to its “golf, but louder” slogan this week.

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