Golf can be a cruel game. Anyone who’s ever picked up a golf club can attest to this. To become a professional, one most devote an inordinate amount of time into the game. Lessons, practice rounds, hire coaches. All of this is part of getting to a point where you can become an elite player. Or, you could just be Brooks Koepka.
Koepka isn’t your prototypical professional golfer. Jon Rahm is completely dedicated to golf. He knows the history better than anyone on any professional level. Jordan Spieth found himself in the doldrums of the game not too long ago. He went through different coaches and swing changes to get back his former top-10-level form. There’s a handful of guys who play every single PGA Tour event because they don’t have enough sponsor money and have to make a living solely based on their golfing finishing position.
And then, there’s Brooks Koepka.
Brooks Koepka: A Polarizing Figure
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LIV Golf is almost created perfectly for Brooks Koepka. He’s a guy that never cared much for the smaller PGA Tour tournaments. In fact, Koepka has won nine total PGA Tour events. An astonishing five have been majors where the other four have been random regular season events. When the stakes are highest, that is when Koepka’s game raises to its highest level. It takes a special person to do that.
With LIV Golf, the atmosphere is much different. Picture a round of golf with one of your buddies on your favorite local public course. That’s the vibe with LIV. It’s golf in shorts with music blaring throughout the entire round. Heck, even half the guys on the LIV Tour aren’t even all that good compared to the bottom-half of the PGA Tour’s players. It’s literally the definition of exhibition golf. And they get paid a ridiculous amount of money to do it.
Golf diehards can’t bring themselves to embrace the idea of LIV. The actual concept is more attractive to the younger crowd due to the music, theatrics, etc. Brooks Koepka thrives in this. It’s not that Koepka doesn’t care about the smaller events. But, for a player of his caliber, it is clearly easier to get up for the PGA Championship than it is the Sanderson Farms Open.
Koepka’s Recent Results Foreshadowed Win
What a week at Oak Hill.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 22, 2023
Koepka has been through a considerable amount of adversity in the past five years. He won two major championships in 2018. The 33-year old is the last golfer to win two majors in the same calendar year. But after his win in the 2019 PGA Championship, Koepka sort of faded into the background. He lost that alpha-dominant form that made him so successful. A major knee injury forced Koepka to start reading putts by laying on his stomach because the pain was too great to bend it.
As healthy as he’s been in a long time, Brooks Koepka seems to be back into the dominant golfer he once was.
LIV Golf fields aren’t very big so it’s hard to use that as a barometer for how someone is playing. However, if you look at recent results, there is a trend. His last four LIV finishes: 6th, 3rd, 19th, WIN. At The Masters, Koepka finished T2 after holding the 54-hole lead. Jon Rahm, the world’s 2nd best golfer, chased him down. That isn’t something to be completely ashamed of even though Koepka himself classified it as a choke.
With only Viktor Hovland within true shouting distance of him on Sunday, Koepka wasn’t going to have it happen again. Things got hairy for Koepka on eleven when his tee shot went wayward. The recovery shot out of the thick rough that led to Koepka displaying great damage control and saving bogey felt like the beginning of the end for the rest of the field.
U.S. Open on the Horizon
Brooks Koepka is now the 20th golfer in history to win five major championships. That is rarified air when considering how many players have played on the PGA Tour throughout its history. When Koepka won his fourth way back in 2019, some thought he might’ve been at seven or eight by this point. He was that dominant. Injuries and the natural regression of golfers decided that wasn’t going to happen. That’s what makes Jack Nicklaus’ and Tiger Woods’ dominance all the more impressive.
The U.S. Open is the next major championship on the calendar. It’ll be played June 15th-18th at The Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course. The course isn’t going to be as long as Oak Hill did. But it has very intricate tee shots that will allow for more precision than a longer hitter like Koepka had to deal with this past weekend.
Koepka’s other two major championship wins happen to be at the U.S Open. He has yet to win The Masters after coming close last month and has not yet won The Open either. While Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler have been dominating the PGA Tour circuit, it’s Brooks Koepka that is reasserting himself amongst golf’s greats.
Depending on your Sportsbook, Koepka could’ve been found between 20/1 and 25/1 heading into the PGA Championship. It’s certain he won’t be that high heading into a major that he’s won twice in his career already.
Time to take Koepka serious again
Anyone can argue that LIV Golf events don’t have the same competitive level that a PGA Tour event does. That’s a fair argument. It doesn’t, however, mean that someone like Koepka can’t turn it on when he needs to. Viktor Hovland has a good track record on the PGA Tour. He’s won each of the last three years on Tour. His consistency in the majors rivals Will Zalatoris in that he’s always near the top of the leaderboard. Just like Zalatoris, however, he just can’t break through.
Did anyone really think after The Masters choke, Brooks Koepka was going to choke away another 54-hole major championship lead? Viktor Hovland was the only real threat in the field save for the late charge by Scheffler on the back-nine. By then, Koepka’s lead was just far enough out of reach to make that a moot point.
Brooks Koepka is now the 13th-ranked golfer in the world. He entered 2023 in 52nd place. LIV Golf isn’t recognized by the OWGR so players don’t accrue points for events. This has kind of watered won the OWGR as a whole, especially now that Koepka has finished T2 and 1st in his two majors. While they don’t reflect just a players’ play in majors, are there really 12 other golfers you trust more than Koepka?
After winning major championship number five, there’s no hiding the fact any longer. Love him or hate him, Brooks Koepka is back.