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TULSA, Okla. – Normally one of the major headliners, Brooks Koepka enters this PGA Championship as a 40-1 favorite, having played just once in the past seven weeks.
That wasn’t by design.
Koepka was entered in last week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, but he withdrew the day before the tournament – with no reason given. Tuesday at Southern Hills, he didn’t offer much of an explanation either, saying only that the “whole reason was just to make sure that I’m ready for the week.” Pressed again later in his news conference, he said, “It was just making sure that I’m ready for this week, and I thought that was the best prep.”
Koepka has battled a variety of injuries over the past few years, and if he’s ailing again, he isn’t saying. He underwent surgery last year to repair a dislocated kneecap, but he said that his knee is “fine” and that he has “no issue.” He has been able to prepare normally on-site this week at the PGA, playing four holes on Sunday, then nine holes both Monday and Tuesday.
A bigger issue than his health is the state of Koepka’s slumping game.
Down to 18th in the world ranking, Koepka has dropped off in nearly every major statistical category. His putting has been his greatest source of frustration and was the chief reason, he said, why he missed the cut at the Masters, ending a streak of three consecutive top-six finishes in majors.
While the rest of the game’s top players battled for the green jacket, Koepka returned home to South Florida and – for the first time in his career – called up YouTube footage of his major victories, hoping to rediscover some of his old magic. While re-watching his four wins, he paid particular attention to his performance on the greens – his posture, his stroke, his ball position – and stroked some putts in the living room. Over the past few weeks, he’s been logging extra hours with putting coach Jeff Pierce.
“Everything just didn’t quite feel right,” he said. “But it’s getting back to what I feel it was, and it looks quite similar to what it was in years’ past.”
Despite his limited play the past few months, he said he’s ready to tackle what should be the type of tough major test he relishes.
“I feel ready,” he said, “and now I’ve just got to play good. Simple.”