Analysis: Brooks Koepka has a big game. He doesn't need a lot of words

Brooks Koepka leaves the bluster to everyone else at LIV Golf. He cares about only his golf, especially when it’s not going the way he wants.

He was burning inside a year ago when he played not to lose in the final round of the Masters and watched his two-shot lead turn into a four-shot loss. He vowed not to let that happen again, and he delivered a month later by claiming his fifth major title at the PGA Championship.

Koepka found more motivation in failure already this year. That he was an afterthought in five LIV Golf events wasn’t nearly as irritating as being a no-show at Augusta National. He failed to break par in any round and beat only 10 players who made the cut.

He was asked in Singapore how is game was trending.

“Clearly not very good, with Augusta the way that went,” Koepka said, living up to his reputation of cutting to the chase. “I kind of felt like I wasted all the time from December until then. Just keep grinding away, keep doing the work, and hopefully something will turn around.”

And it did.

He made 17 birdies over three rounds in Singapore, was never seriously challenged on the final day and won by two shots. He referred to the Masters as a wake-up call.

It might be that way for others, too, especially with the PGA Championship at Valhalla next on the docket.

Koepka is the first player to win four LIV Golf titles.

That doesn’t make him the betting favorite at the PGA Championship. Scottie Scheffler has won four times in the last two months against far stronger fields (and over 72 holes) — in two signature events, The Players Championship and the Masters.

The search is for who can stop him, and a couple of candidates have emerged in recent weeks as Scheffler waits at home in Dallas for the birth of his first child.

Rory McIlroy won in New Orleans, albeit a team event with Shane Lowry, and restored some of the fun in golf that had been sorely missing. He won the last time the PGA Championship was at Valhalla, a wild finish in the dark with McIlroy joining the group ahead — Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler, both still with hopes of winning — in an effort to finish.

Ludvig Aberg is the best futures bet on challenging Scheffler. He’s a month away from completing one year as a pro and already is No. 6 in the world ranking with two wins and a Ryder Cup celebration. In his first major, he was runner-up to Scheffler at the Masters.

But there’s something fascinating about Koepka, particularly in the majors, and whenever he seems to have a chip on his shoulder that he puts there himself.

He once said majors were the easiest to win because they effectively had the smallest fields by process of elimination. Koepka figured he was flat-out better than half of the 156-man field and half of those guys would be off their game. Then he began to factor in how can they handle the pressure. By his math, it was only a few guys left to beat.


And then he won another major.

Two days after he made those comments, Koepka opened with 63-65 at Bethpage Black in the 2019 PGA Championship to set a major championship record for 36 holes. He set PGA Championship records for largest 36- and 54-hole leads.

The back nine on Sunday wasn’t pretty when he made four straight bogeys and fans on Long Island began cheering for more. Unfazed, Koepka closed it out for a two-shot victory.

“It’s New York. What do you expect when you’re half-choking it away?” Koepka said.

No bull. No bluster.

He doesn’t always deliver. There was the shade he threw Dustin Johnson’s way the following year at Harding Park when Koepka was trying to become the first player to win three straight PGA Championship titles in stroke play.

He was two shots behind Johnson after 54 holes and said: “When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. He’s only won one. I’m playing good. I don’t know, we’ll see.” Koepka didn’t make a birdie until the 12th hole, shot 74 and tied for 29th.

He failed to take down 50-year-old Mickelson at Kiawah Island. He lost a 54-hole lead to Jon Rahm at the Masters last year.

But he’s always there.

There’s still a loose notion that LIV Golf’s format, schedule and guaranteed riches don’t prepare its players for the majors. The results don’t bear that out — three LIV players finished in the top 10 at the Masters this year and last, three in the PGA Championship last year, two in the U.S. Open.

And it should never apply to Koepka. His record in the majors, when he is healthy, is daunting.

“I think the big thing that kind of separates me is my ability to lock in and go someplace where I think a lot of guys can’t go,” he said in Singapore.

That ability allowed him to win one U.S. Open by tying the record score to par (16 under) at Erin Hills, and win the next year with a score over par at Shinnecock Hills. He also won back-to-back in the PGA Championship.

“Hopefully looking to do it again,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s ever been done, but it would be kind of a cool thing.”

Winning back to back in the majors on three occasions has been done. Tiger Woods did it four times — the Masters (2001-02), the PGA Championship (1999-2000 and 2006-07) and the British Open (2005-06). Just not at the U.S. Open.

Woods never said it was easy. It never is. Koepka likes it that way.


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