When Tiger Woods said "hello world" in his news conference announcing he was turning pro, many people felt it was the first step toward a dramatic change in a sport that had remained stagnant for nearly a century.
They were right. Because of Tiger, interest in the game grew. Advertisers and ratings and money poured into the game like never before. Players saw Tiger's physique and started working out more. He effectively changed the entire landscape of professional golf like no player before or after.
The only thing he didn't change, which he seemingly didn't want to, was the longest-standing tradition that golf prides itself on: Following the rules.
Golf remains, to this day, a country club game played primarily by middle-age white males wearing pastel shirts and shorts in an uptight, rule-oriented fashion. Brooks Koepka, the closest thing we've seen to Tiger in terms of dominance in majors, would like to change that. As we enter into a new era of younger players taking up the game, he has the ability to do just that.
In an interview with GQ Magazine, the outspoken three-time major champion said golf is boring and he wants to fix it. One of the changes he wants to see is an altered perception of the golfing atmosphere.
"“One thing I'd change is maybe the stuffiness. Golf has always had this persona of the triple-pleated khaki pants, the button-up shirt, very country club atmosphere, where it doesn't always have to be that way." "- Brooks Koepka
It's true. Golf has always been rule-oriented. Country clubs have rules about how to dress, where you can wear your hat, where you can use your phone and, essentially, be yourself. Break those rules and the old guard will give you dirty looks and, if you're a member, reprimand you.
But now there's a new generation of player emerging at golf courses around the country. They play music on speakers in their golf cart. They don't tuck in their shirts. They wear t-shirts and sneakers instead of polos and spikes. They talk when people are swinging their club. They wear their hats backwards wherever they want. They don't have rules. They create their own set of acceptable standards.
Koepka could be their leader. He could take them and the game into a new generation, one where being casual is ok. That could actually grow the game, something the old heads of golf have long wanted, but haven't figured out how.
Well, Brooks is showing you how. It's about forgetting the old ways and starting new ones. It's about embracing a new world where technology is intertwined with every element of life. Really, it's about loosening up and accepting a new generation that was raised to think differently than those who made these rules in the 19th century.
Tiger never challenged those rules. He was raised by a military man, so perhaps structure and rules made sense to him. He didn't want to rock that boat.
Brooks Koepka does. He's carving a new path-- only he's not putting any restrictions on where it goes. There aren't rules along this road. There's only change. It won't be easy for everyone to accept, but a decade from now, it could alter the way golf is played and perceived like never before.