When Brooks Koepka teed up at TPC Harding Park last August, he was not just the defending champion, but the TWO-time defending champion, having won the 2018 edition by two over Tiger Woods, and the 2019 PGA by two over Dustin Johnson.
Attempting to become the first player to win three consecutive PGA Championships since Walter Hagen took four straight from 1924 to 1927, Koepka was in good position after 54 holes, sitting just two back of Dustin Johnson. Uncharacteristically, he played his Sunday front nine in four-over, and faded into a share of 29th place.
It has been up-and-down for Brooks ever since.
The four-time major champion struggled coming back from a knee injury, reaching what he called a “dark place” late in the 2020 season. The 31-year-old played better in the fall, but missed three cuts in a row over December and January. He then exploded late at February’s Waste Management Phoenix Open to win his eighth career title, and added a runner-up three weeks later at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession.
But low and behold, another knee procedure was needed in March and Koepka missed the cut in both of his starts since: at The Masters and at last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.
Although, Koepka said we shouldn’t take too much from last week’s missed cut in Dallas.
“Last week was just kind of a make sure everything is — I can walk the golf course without pain,” said Koepka during a Tuesday press conference ahead of the PGA Championship.
“So I checked that one off.
“I can swing no problem, different lies, different situations, and it was fine. So I was very pleased with that.
“Like I said, I just neglected putting just because my focus was on making sure that I could swing the golf club.
“But I went to Kentucky for two days and got that sorted, so I like where I’m at.”
Where he’s “at” is now being able to focus exclusively on hitting golf shots.
“I feel like I can hit every shot. It’s not like Augusta where I’m trying to figure out what’s the best line to walk instead of figuring out — now I can actually hit golf shots and understand what’s going on,” said Koepka.
“For a while it was just I neglected putting just to see if I could hit shots, because if I can’t hit shots I can’t play. No point in that.
“No, I got everything under control and know what I’m doing. Last week was a good test just to see where I’m at for two days.
“I thought if I got four, it would be nice, but two days of rest didn’t hurt me.”
Koepka plays majors at a very high level – with four victories and five additional top 10s just since 2017. So if he is healthy – and we have to believe he’s healthy enough, it becomes very difficult to bet against him.
Brooks Koepka seems to be completely immune to pressure.