How did Brooks Koepka, master of the majors, fall apart at PGA Championship?

·3 min read
Brooks Koepka shot a 2-over 74 in the final round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on Sunday in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka shot a 2-over 74 in the final round of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort on Sunday in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Brooks Koepka is the coldest dude in golf today. Maybe not peak-Tiger Woods level, but he's developed a serious intimidation factor with his performance at majors in recent years.

If Koepka is in the hunt, watch out.

Even the oddsmakers seemed to assume he was the man to beat all week long.

But something strange happened on Sunday at the PGA Championship. Koepka apparently found his kryptonite in majors: nice guy Phil Mickelson, who remarkably held on for the victory at age 50.

While Mickelson was giving thumbs-ups to the crowd, handing balls to kids and joking around with rules officials — all while leading the freaking tournament — Koepka's stoic demeanor didn't appear to do him any favors.

The method he used to win four majors — all since 2017 — and contend in several other along the way didn't work on Kiawah Island Ocean Course, where he carded a 2-over 74 in his final round. It was his worst score of the week at the worst possible time.

"I'm super disappointed, pretty bummed. I'm not happy," Koepka said afterward. "I don't know if there's a right word I can say on here without getting fined, but it hurts a little bit."

Koepka started the day one back and very briefly took the lead Sunday with a birdie on the first hole, but he immediately began to sputter from there.

An errant tee shot and a duffed chip led to a stunning double bogey on the par-5 second hole, and the lead had vanished.

It was far from over at that point, though. Mickelson left plenty of openings with three bogeys on the front 9. Koepka was within two shots at the turn, then things really slipped away.

Bogeys on 10, 11 and 13 spelled an end to his hopes. Golf's greatest modern-day assassin looked human. While he closed strong with two late birdies to finish tied for second, it was far too late to catch the champion.

So what went wrong? His health was certainly a factor coming into the week. He's only played two tournament since undergoing knee surgery in March, and he missed the cut at both.

Over the last two years, the 31-year-old has dealt with injuries in both knees and a herniated disc in his back. 

All that said, his ball striking was on point this week. He ranked near the top of the field in strokes gained tee-to-green. 

"It felt great. Honestly, the knee really did, the knee was not an issue. I was able to push off of it and I didn't have one shot this week where I felt like I couldn't push off it. It definitely felt like the strongest it's been, probably up till the last," Koepka said.

The problem was the putter, and he knew it.

He said his biggest regret was "just how bad I putted the last two days. Three days, actually. It felt like tap-ins I was missing. Never felt comfortable, and you're not going to win if you do that."

Turns out, it got worse.

He missed putts from 5 feet on the third hole, 8 feet on 10, 7 feet on 11. After his 12-footer for birdie on the opening hole, he failed to hit another shot outside 10 feet the entire day.

All told, he was 71st in the field in strokes gained putting. That'll clearly be where he turns his focus in the coming months.

He admitted it wasn't a priority coming into the week. "I just neglected putting just because my focus was on making sure that I could swing the golf club," he said Tuesday.

It wasn't his week. Rest assured that steely stare will be back in contention at a major on another day.

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