Watching the press conferences of Brooks Koepka and Nick Kyrgios on Tuesday, it quickly became clear that the two were interchangeable.
“I don’t have any kids that I know about.” Yeah, that was Koepka, but if you told us it was Kyrgios, we wouldn’t bat an eyelid.
Unsurprisingly, both were defending controversial behaviour to the media by doubling down and going on the offensive.
For tennis player Kyrgios, it was spitting towards a fan and calling a line judge a ‘snitch’ during a five-set victory over Brit Paul Jubb at Wimbledon.
For golfer Koepka, it was joining the contentious Saudi-backed LIV Golf series despite seemingly siding with the PGA Tour, something Rory McIlroy called ‘duplicitious’.
As two of sport’s most confrontational interviewees traded blows with journalists, they truly cemented their place as the leading pantomime villains in their profession.
The ‘bad boy’ reputation of both precedes them – and they appear to get a kick out of causing outrage.
Where to start with Kyrgios? From insulting fellow players, officials and fans, to deliberately throwing matches – his disdain for tennis has been screamed from the rooftops.
Koepka, meanwhile, also picks fights within his own sport and seems to relish it.
His feud with Bryson DeChambeau is famous – but Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and the Ryder Cup have also found themselves in the firing line.
During his triumph at the rowdy Phoenix Open in 2021, Koepka said golf ‘almost felt like a real sport’ that week.
Like Kyrgios, Koepka makes no secret of his party lifestyle outside sport, with constant references to his lack of passion for the actual game.
Neither has the slightest care for what they say or how they are perceived – and in a world full of media-trained atheltes, that can be refreshing.
Sport needs its villains as much as its heroes, people to root against and make us feel something.
Often, those are the most entertaining sportspeople, the ones who refuse to speak in pre-rehearsed cliches and tell us something interesting, even if it is not particularly commendable.
Another obvious similarity between Koepka and Kyrgios is their mercurial talent: the golfer has won four Majors and the tennis star has serious unlocked potential.
But Tuesday represented the moment Koepka truly became the Kyrgios of golf: because he took it too far.
Kyrgios lost his innocence many years ago, notably with unsavoury comments about Stan Wawrinka’s private life, and Tuesday was yet another example of multiple lines being crossed.
Until this point, Koepka was the good kind of villain. A harmless love-to-hate figure that made golf more fun.
But for one of the game’s most competitive players to essentially sell his sporting integrity and his morals, then shrug it off in typically-intimidating fashion… it just doesn’t feel fun anymore.
In the end, the real tragedy is that very same indifference will keep us from witnessing the true potential of Koepka and Kyrgios, and they will probably be remembered for their behaviour rather than their talent.
- How Brooks Koepka became Nick Kyrgios of golf as sport’s pantomime villains make headlines at LIV Golf event and Wimbledon for all the wrong reasons
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