It’s easy for Brooks Koepka to find motivation on weeks like this. For starters, it’s the U.S. Open, a tournament where Koepka has won in back-to-back years. The four-time major champion is trying to become the first since Willie Anderson to win three straight U.S. Open titles.
But in addition to maintaining the mental fortitude required to compete at a major championship, Koepka has another chip on his shoulder. This year, it is with Fox Sports, the official television provider broadcasting the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. In their annual promo for the tournament, there was a notable golfer missing. Brooks Koepka. In fact, out of the four promos Fox Sports created, three of which included the World No. 1, the one selected highlighted his absence.
And Koepka was quick to jump on this fact, which will serve as his primary motivation at the third major championship of the year.
“I was just kind of shocked,” said Koepka. “Somebody got fired over it, or should.”
Brooks Koepka’s Self-Perception, Mental Toughness Enables Success
A lot has changed since the days of Brooks Koepka travelling every week to play in tournaments throughout Europe. Or at the 2017 U.S. Open, when Dustin Johnson was more noticeable in the workout room than Koepka. There are still instances where the six time winner on the PGA Tour pinches himself at the attention he generates.
“I still think it’s weird when I walk into a place and I can see eyes are on me just for dinner,” reveals Koepka. “I just view myself as a regular guy, just like everybody else. And I just happen to be really good at golf, and that’s it. I don’t view myself any different than anybody else does.”
There is a plethora of individuals who can play golf really well. But very few can play at the highest level like Brooks Koepka. What makes him abnormal compared to the average golfer is his inherent aptitude for blocking out distractions. The mental capacity to hit timely shots in the biggest moments of a golf tournament has been the impetus to move Koepka into golfing stardom, winning four of the last eight majors he has competed in.
Koepka has been able to dominate to major victories, like he did at Erin Hills for his first U.S. Open. He has conquered unequivocally challenging golf course setups at Shinnecock Hills and the galleries rooting for Tiger Woods at the 2018 PGA Championship. Most impressive was Koepka’s most recent major championship victory, battling the windy conditions at Bethpage Black, to survive the bogeys and the near-comeback from Dustin Johnson. It was his most emotionally draining victory yet, but once again demonstrated Koepka’s clutch ability under the immensity of major championship pressure.
“I watched a six-shot lead disappear very quickly,” affirmed Koepka. “I was actually really proud of myself the way I spun that mentally, being able to block things out and turn a negative into a positive by hitting great shots.”
Doubt Koepka At Your Own Risk at Majors
Pebble Beach will be a unique test for Brooks Koepka. Compared to the other courses he has won U.S. Opens at, the classic setup at Pebble is much shorter. Requiring a golfer to hit creative shots, particularly on the sloping greens.
No golfing body will be under the microscope more than the USGA this week. After two years of questionable course setups, coming back to a classic course like Pebble Beach will provide an opportunity for redemption. But to Brooks Koepka, a golf course is the same test for anyone. Hence why he shrugs off the criticism towards the USGA when it comes to course structure.
“If they put it in the fairway, you shouldn’t have to complain about the rough. You hit the greens and you hit it close, you shouldn’t have to complain about the greens,” states Koepka. “I’ve just been never one to complain and make excuses.”
The blueprint at major championships is one that has worked for Koepka. Four of his six PGA Tour wins have come at majors. Throughout this dominant stretch, Brooks has stressed his mental ability to lock in at these tournaments. When he isn’t at the golf course, Koepka is with his close friends and family. The close bubble away from the buzz of a major championship enables Koepka to relax and adapt that laser, tunnel-vision focus on the golf course. He has won four major championships with this approach, why stop now?
“I just keep it very, very strict on major weeks. It’s something I’ve done ever since I’ve gotten to major championships,” says Koepka. I keep the golf at the golf course; and when I go home, I put my feet up and relax. These are super stressful weeks. And to find some place of relaxation is important.”
With the golfing world wondering if Tiger can win his 16th major, or if Phil Mickelson can finally claim his U.S. Open, don’t gaze too far away from Brooks Koepka. Golf is in need of a dominant successor. Koepka is the name everyone is chasing now.