Some day this winter, Brooks Koepka will indulge a now customary ritual. He’ll go alone to the seaside close to his residence in Jupiter, Fla., sit by the ocean and write down his objectives for the yr. Some can be shared along with his staff; others will stay personal. That’s been his behavior since he turned skilled, however it’s tough to think about that the ambitions Koepka listed a yr in the past may have been as lofty as his precise accomplishments in 2018.

He grew to become the primary man in virtually 30 years to efficiently defend the U.S. Open. On the PGA Championship, he joined Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington as the one gamers within the final 20 years to win two majors in a season. He was voted Participant of the 12 months, an honor he promptly celebrated by successful the CJ Cup and ascending to No. 1 on this planet.

It’s an honor roll that renders his $7 million earnings virtually incidental.

“Anybody else, they’re on the quilt of a Wheaties field,” stated Claude Harmon III, Koepka’s longtime coach.

There received’t be a Wheaties field, after all.

That metaphorical quest for the Wheaties field took one other detour this week when Koepka was snubbed by ESPN on its “Dominant 20” listing athletes for  2018.

Cereal celebrities are obliged to carry out earlier than the cameras as a lot as on the sphere of play, and Koepka has repeatedly declined the glitzy media excursions that normally await a significant champion. A contemporary PGA Tour golfer who doesn’t moonlight as a pitchman, who merely performs and goes residence, is condemned to life under the radar. Even his CJ Cup win and crowning as World No. 1 was unseen by followers at residence, occurring in a single day in South Korea.

The 28-year-old Floridian’s laid-back demeanor obscures simply how meteoric his rise to the highest of world golf has been. He wanted solely 105 Tour begins to get there. Seventeen of them got here in his excellent 2018 marketing campaign, which resulted in ecstasy however started with one thing a lot nearer to despair.

Wrist harm slowed early progress in 2018

In November 2017 Koepka had blitzed the sphere by 9 strokes to win the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan for a second consecutive yr, however confessed to Harmon afterward that his left wrist was hurting.

He soldiered on.

On the 18-man Hero World Problem he completed final, 21 strokes behind Rickie Fowler. On the Sentry Match of Champions, the harm flared once more as he warmed up for the pro-am. He didn’t break 74 that week. One other DFL, 37 stokes adrift of his buddy Dustin Johnson.

One week into 2018, Koepka shut it down. He wouldn’t contact a membership for 91 days.

“It was devastating to him, it was irritating to all of us,” Harmon stated of the sensation in Camp Koepka. “Wrist, neck and again accidents for golfers are like soccer gamers blowing out their ACL. You don’t have any concept what’s going to occur. Is he going to be the identical participant? There have been plenty of unknowns.”

Koepka started hitting balls once more on the Monday after the Masters. He admitted that it damage having to observe the event from residence.

“Sitting on the sofa made me actually recognize how a lot I really love this sport and love competitors,” Koepka stated. “I don’t wish to say I used to be depressed, however I used to be positively down.”

He returned in late April, however simply weeks later on the Gamers Championship he tweaked his wrist once more after attempting to cease a swing when a cart drove in entrance of him on the vary. An MRI signaled he was good to play. A Sunday 63 signaled his sport was therapeutic too.

“Wanting the place I used to be, sitting on my sofa watching the Masters, and to assume I might do that, I might have laughed at you and informed you there was no approach, no probability. To do it’s actually unbelievable.” – Brooks Koepka after successful the 2018 PGA Championship

He rounded into kind with a second-place end on the Fort Value Invitational (one other two 63s) then headed to Shinnecock Hills in New York, the place he grew to become the primary defending champion to repeat on the U.S. Open since Curtis Unusual in 1989. Two months later – one other 63! – he held off a resurgent Woods by two strokes to win the PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis, his third main in six begins.

“Wanting the place I used to be, sitting on my sofa watching the Masters, and to assume I might do that, I might have laughed at you and informed you there was
no approach, no probability,” he stated that evening. “To do it’s actually unbelievable.”

Koepka’s season was noteworthy not only for the wins, however for the style of the wins. He has lengthy been admired for his athleticism and uncooked energy, however Koepka’s biggest weapon was a preternatural calm on essentially the most nerve-jangling Sundays within the sport.

“He has an innate capability to not put strain on himself. I’ve by no means seen him panic,” Harmon stated. “He jogs my memory of Nick Faldo mentally. He’s powerful. You understand he’s not going to fold.”

Calm and funky off the course

That even-keeled method extends to life off the golf course too.

“In comparison with plenty of the younger guys, he simply doesn’t beat himself up. He by no means sulks,” Harmon stated. “There are gamers on Tour that for those who’re purported to exit to dinner with them and so they shoot 75, you’re not going out to dinner. Brooks doesn’t have that angle.”

It was in 2013 that Harmon started working with Koepka, who was studying his craft on Europe’s minor-league Problem Tour. He rapidly seen two placing attributes.

“He had plenty of pace, like Tiger again within the day, or Rory. He had the one factor that as an teacher I do know you may’t educate,” Harmon stated. “You both have that otherwise you don’t.”

Maybe extra stunning was Koepka’s self-belief.

“Once I first began working with him he stated he thought he may win a number of majors,” his coach remembered, nonetheless laughing on the audacity. “I’m like, ‘Dude, you’re on the Problem Tour!’ He all the time believed.”

The wins imply extra to Koepka than his public disposition would possibly recommend. After successful his first main final yr at Erin Hills, he flew to Las Vegas. On a non-public jet excessive over the Rockies, the newly topped U.S. Open champion held the trophy and wept.

Koepka was no much less awestruck when Harmon and his agent, Blake Smith, lined up his main {hardware} to take photographs at his residence a number of days after the PGA Championship.  “Holy (expletive)” the champ stated when he walked into the room. “I can’t imagine I’ve all these trophies in my home.”

“Everybody thought Erin Hills was a mistake. It was an asterisk,” Harmon stated with an fringe of disdain in his voice. “Then he goes and wins Shinnecock. Then he wins the PGA. Then he’s Participant of the 12 months. And World No. 1.”

That PGA triumph held particular significance for Koepka, and never as a result of he grew to become the primary participant of his technology to face down Woods within the closing spherical of a significant. Clipping one other opponent at Bellerive actually thrilled the champion. Koepka’s idol is Adam Scott, with whom he performed within the closing spherical and edged into third place by three strokes.

They’d first performed collectively 4 years earlier in a apply spherical at Hoylake earlier than the British Open. Harmon had secretly arrange the sport. When the Aussie walked onto the tee, a wide-eyed Koepka turned to his coach.

Koepka has turn into his personal hero

“We’re enjoying with Adam Scott?” he exclaimed. “Are you kidding me?”

Right this moment, Koepka has thrice as many main wins as his hero.

The lazy rap towards Koepka is that he doesn’t win typically sufficient on Tour. The 2015 Waste Administration Phoenix Open – the primary of his 5 Tour wins – is his solely non-major victory within the U.S. It’s an anomaly that places him in rarefied statistical firm with Andy North as gamers who’ve extra wins in majors than in common tournaments. It’s not a ledger imbalance that troubles his staff.

“His sport is admittedly suited to successful majors. Who else can say that?” Harmon stated. “Rory can say that. Jordan can say that. Tiger can say that. Phil may in his prime. Aside from these 4, who else may say that their sport is constructed round successful majors?”

Koepka all the time believed that, even again when he was a scrawny, unpolished child enjoying in Kazakhstan and the opposite equally unglamorous precincts of the Problem Tour. Again then he informed Harmon that he believed he may get to 5 or 6 main wins. That, he felt certain, was a legit goal. He’s made a believer out of many since then, his coach included.

“Within the subsequent 10 years he’s going to present himself good alternatives to win main championships,” Harmon stated. “He’s going to be a type of guys who’s going to have possibilities.”

5 or 6 majors. A lofty purpose, one which may provide a clue as to what Koepka could possibly be writing when he’s sitting alone on the seaside in Jupiter. Gwk 

(Word: A model of this story appeared within the November 2018 concern of Golfweek.)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here