Culture / Sporting Life

Brooks Koepka’s Girlfriend Really Loves Tiger Woods

Hug Heard Around the World Shows How Different Everything is for Man Once Feared Like Mike Tyson

BY // 08.13.18

Tiger Woods is waiting to congratulate Brooks Koepka at the end, which would have been the most unlikely Tiger thing ever back in his other life, in his dominant days. But there Tiger is, just waiting around a corner by the entrance to the scorer’s area.

In a funny twist, Koepka’s girlfriend — model/actress Jena Sims — seems even more delighted to see the world’s most famous golfer than her boyfriend. Sims makes sure she gets a hug from Tiger too — and doesn’t even try to hide how thrilled she is about the encounter.

It’s incredibly charming — and it’s also instructive of just where the two men stand. Koepka is a relentless new world golf machine (and people used to think Ivan Lendl was robotic? — please) who doesn’t even bother to milk his moment for even a minute on the 18th green. He can take apart a tough golf course (see the last two U.S. Opens) or an easy one (see this PGA Championship win).

After Koepka wins, his girlfriend has trouble even keeping up with him. Sims desperately tries to catch up and give her man some more love, but Koepka just keeps briskly marching ahead like a next generation Terminator, often leaving his girlfriend far behind. Give Sims credit. She is pretty dogged.

Woods left more than a few loved ones behind in his prime. But now Tiger Woods is as much of an icon as he is a golfer. Even on a day when he shoots 64 in the final round of a major, and comes a couple of mistakes from finally winning No. 15, people look at him with more adoration than astonishment. Everyone used to fear Tiger Woods. Now, everyone wants to wrap him up in a hug like Jena Sims.

Tiger’s become a lovable symbol, now famous for his longtime fame.

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It’s quite a switch for Woods. It might not be good for his golf game (after all, no athlete outside of Mike Tyson arguably ever used fear and intimidation more effectively than Tiger in his prime). But it has to be good for Woods, the man.

“These fans were so loud all week,” Woods tells the CBS cameras, clearly touched about the support in ways the 2008 Tiger never would have even considered.

That a 42-year-old Tiger could shoot 66-64 on the weekend of a major in the unrelenting St. Louis heat would have seemed unthinkable just a few days ago. Woods changed golf shirts at the rate Donald Trump tweets in the sweltering sweatbox, but his fused spine held up. And so did his game.

“I played hard,” Woods says to the cameras afterwards. “I tried to make as many birdies as possible. I made a little bit of a run.”

The old Tiger never would have allowed himself any kind of moment after losing a winnable major by two stokes. But this is a healthier Woods in all sorts of ways. Before Brooks Koepka’s girlfriend eagerly went in for a hug, Woods made sure to kiss his own. Erica Herman waited for him off the 18th green — and much like at the British Open, Woods made sure to acknowledge the woman in his life. Casual golf fans still seem to be getting used to Herman, but she’s been with Tiger for more than a year.

Suddenly, Tiger Woods is getting love from all sides.

Woods is still facing a steep uphill race against time in his stalled quest to match or break Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major championship wins. This second place finish at the PGA Championship further fuels the notion he has at least one or two left in him. After that, who knows?

Strangers things have happened. Like Tiger Woods becoming the guy that everyone wants to hug.

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