Koepka Sets Blistering Pace for Majors
Take a look at the long-term record for Brooks Koepka. What you will find is a very nice golf career with a few significant victories on the world stage. He has compiled a body of work including six wins on the PGA Tour, five on the European, two on the Japan Tour, and 4 on the Challenge Tour. That brings polite applause, a healthy dose of respect, and an understanding that Koepka is indeed a successful member of the PGA Tour. His record is certainly not Tigeresque in proportion. But hey, there is a premium on stars within a given space. We all eventually find our place and occupy it, right?
If that is true, consider the past two or three seasons in terms of majors. You know, that category by which Tiger is to be forever judged against the greatest in history. We know that a Tiger who is “getting on” a bit won the 2019 Masters. No, not that stat. Here’s the stat to look at it. In the last eight majors, including the Masters, the U.S. Open, Open, and PGA, the new wizard on the block has won four of them. That means two consecutive U.S. Opens, and two consecutive PGAs – did I mention two years? In 2015, Brooks won the CJ Cup. Before that , the Phoenix. Before that, not much that we read about in the papers. Winning four of the last eight majors is absolutely Tigeresque. He is the only one who did it in the modern age. So what’s happening?
I haven’t the slightest idea, but I do have a theory as to why we are confused. The golf spectator as a collective is accustomed to being able to see it coming. We are not used to being surprised, because we think a great one will always tip his or her hand as a prodigy. We knew Tiger was coming from his infant appearance on the Johnny Carson show., but not Brooks Koepka. In short, we have bought into an inherent belief in prodigy behavior. Play as a journeyman in your 20s on the PGA Tour, and you will never be one of the blessed.
There are other examples of those who were not prepared to bloom when we thought they should. Francesco Molinari has gone from respected journeyman to a constant presence on the leaderboard. He is feared, and often the object of looks over the shoulder until the tournament is done. Even Sergiu won the Masters after enjoying the prodigy parade and then failing to deliver. History is filled with people who were overlooked, overshadowed and outplayed before suddenly turning on the jets. There are even those that assert that in Einstein’s young life, his wife did the better work, and he stole that.
This PGA win by Brooks marked the first instance since 1883 that a winner led all the way from day one. His game was nearly blameless through the first three days, in which he built up a seven stroke lead. In the 35 mph wins of round four, it started to come apart with four consecutive bogeys. Dustin Johnson chipped that lead into a one stroke advantage, but with bogeys of his own, couldn’t close the deal. So intent was Koepka that his girlfriend couldn’t even get in a quick good luck kiss. Considering the woes of that round, perhaps he should have broken the concentration rule, and kissed her long and hard.
In addition to the win, Koepka has contended in the others as well. It could have been even more impressive. He has another chance at that in June, when the U.S. Open rolls around again. A win there would mean three of them in a row, and and five out of nine majors. Call it whatever we like, the majors scene being reshaped by Brooks Keopka is starting to look pretty Tigerish to me.