Second at the Masters was no accident.
Despite being the winner of four major tournaments, there were many who doubted Brooks Koepka as he faced Jon Rahm in the final duet in Augusta last month.
Things didn’t quite go to plan for the 33-year-old former world number one, and his fate was sealed when a two-stroke lead overnight turned into a deficit. Three bogeys in his front nine and three more at home meant a four-stroke last-round loss to the then-world number one. Koepka looked frustrated not only with Patrick Cantlay’s slow play, but also with his own game.
A month is a long time in golf, though, and Koepka left the memory of that mini-collapse far behind with a dominating display at Oak Hill, heading home two shots to the right on 2022 Masters champion Scottie Scheffler and his playing partner Viktor Hovland.
His last three rounds of 66/66/67 could have been even better if he hadn’t scraped the edge of a handful of holes over the weekend, but he’s unlikely to complain as he joined only 19 other golfers as a five-time major winner.
Koepka is all about mental toughness – just ask his coach.
Legendary golf teacher Pete Cowan told the Guardian that his charge will earn a lot more silverware now that he’s fit and believes in himself.
“He will earn a lot more,” Cowan said. “I definitely think he will go another four and he would obviously like a grand slam. Look how many times he’s been second or just missed already. I thought he was an amazing player in 2018-19 and he got stronger.”
If he got to nine, that would put Brooks alongside Ben Hogan and Gary Player.
Cowan dismisses any bad attitude from Koepka, saying the injury has affected him badly after peak seasons of 2018 and 2019.
“I thought he could come back because he was always comfortable in awkward situations,” Cowan explained. “He looks like he wants to beat you now, as he comes down the stretch.
“He’s not afraid to work, that’s for sure, and he couldn’t work when he was injured.”
Many believe Koepka moved to LIV Golf because he simply couldn’t see the day when he could be as good as he once was, but having now recorded the best major record of any player so far. ‘now in 2023, it seems a certainty. to the Ryder Cup in September.
Whether he gets there by automatic selection or a pick by captain Zach Johnson, Cowan believes he and Dustin Johnson will face off at the Marco Simone.
“He would love to play in the Ryder Cup,” Cowen said. “I know Brooks and Dustin Johnson would love to play. I’ve spoken to them about it.” The caveat that “I don’t think Jay would like him to play” seems to make little sense at the moment, the golf world generally ignoring politics to celebrate the return to form of one of his best.
Koepka is aware of the history of being the first LIV golfer to win a major, but says,
“Yes, it’s a huge thing, but at the same time I’m here competing as an individual in the PGA Championship.”
Cowan seemed to have no doubt that his student had it in him. As they walked and talked on the pitching and putting fields on Sunday, Koepka “complained about swinging badly.” In response, Cowan confirmed, “Your 70% will always win.”
It wasn’t all smooth and blown air.
“I sat him down after watching him play all four rounds of the 2017 St Jude Classic,” said the 72-year-old Yorkshireman.
“I gave him a real conversation, I said, ‘With this attitude, you won’t gain anything. Your talent is there, but your attitude is appalling. You have to have the attitude of a champion if you want to be a champion.
After Koepka’s first major win, a four-stroke win at Erin Hills at the 2017 US Open, he gave his man a commemorative signed flag.
“On the flag it says, ‘Thanks for the stupidity. Couldn’t have done it without you. He can take that from me. He doesn’t want a ‘yes’ or his ego stroked.
Over the 19th hole