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King Abdullah Economic City (Saudi Arabia) (AFP) – Four-time Major winner Brooks Koepka picked up the biggest payday of his career with a $4 million play-off win over close friend Peter Uihlein on the Saudi-funded LIV Golf breakaway tour on Sunday.
Koepka’s birdie on the third hole of the Jeddah Invitational play-off cost Uihlein $5.875 million as he 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 win. The 2017-18 US Open and 2018-19 PGA Championship winner was emotional afterwards, revealing he had feared for his career as he battled injury.
“The last two years haven’t been fun – it’s been a long road,” Koepka said.
“I didn’t know if my career was over for half a second. I didn’t know if I was going to play, so it’s good to be able to come back and be able to win.”
The $25 million tournament at King Abdullah Economic City, north of Jeddah, was LIV’s first stop in Saudi Arabia and the final one-on-one event in a first season that divided the golfing world.
Uihlein started the day one shot ahead of Koepka and from the shotgun start, the former Challenge Tour housemates dueled on the course on a hot day of strong breezes and rare birdies.
Coming to the 18th, their final hole, they were tied at four for the lead, but they both birdied to head for the play-offs and leave Sergio Garcia and Joaquin Niemann behind.
Uihlein escaped from a greenside bunker twice to take it to a third hole, but then, with an awkward lie in the sand, he wedged himself onto the green and into the water to leave Koepka with two putts for the win.
Uihlein, 33, had earned $12.75 million, nearly tripling his career earnings on the PGA Tour, had he taken the win.
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 fans, with many calling it a “sportswash” of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
This week’s tournament, the first on Saudi soil, also coincided with a political row between Washington and Riyadh over oil production cuts by the Saudi-led OPEC+ group.
Tiny crowds on the Royal Greens course at King Abdullah Economic City, a remote development north of Jeddah, didn’t help LIV live up to its ‘golf, but stronger’ slogan this week.
LIV, backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, concludes its first season with a team event later this month at Trump National in Miami, with an expanded 14-stop circuit scheduled for next year.
© 2022 AFP