FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Professional golfers were met at Bethpage Black this week with a famous sign warning them about the challenges of the course.
A similar warning sign about Brooks Koepka should be considered for all future majors.
Oh, it’s not like all the rest of those “highly skilled golfers” were caught off guard by the 29-year-old Floridian this week. Or that they’ll forget about Koepka’s talents when they report to Pebble Beach next month.
But there’s no doubt a bolded “BROOKS IS HERE” would be appropriate with the way Koepka is taking over golf’s biggest events. He won the PGA Championship by two shots over Dustin Johnson, going wire-to-wire for his fourth major title in his last eight starts.
Koepka is the first player in golf history to hold back-to-back U.S. Open and PGA Championship titles at the same time.
While his other three major wins were filled with drama and high-leverage situations, this one was never close, at least not until midway through the back nine on Sunday when Koepka went bogey-bogey-bogey on 11, 12 and 13. That coupled with Johnson, his best buddy on tour, birdieing the 15th for the fourth straight day and Koepka’s seven-shot lead to start the day was down to just two.
The crowd at Bethpage, prepared for a drama-free coronation, was suddenly privy to an actual competition.
“DJ! DJ! DJ!” they screamed.
Minutes later, Koepka flew the 14th green leading to yet another bogey.
Lead down to 1, and for the first time in seemingly forever the unflappable Koepka was on the ropes.
But bogies from Johnson on 16 and 17 ended the rally/implosion.
It all lasted less than an hour -- the entirety of any semblance of drama at the 2019 PGA Championship.
This is what it looks like to hang on and win a major championship on the brutally tough Bethpage Black. 🙌 pic.twitter.com/lOE1Uq91LG— GOLF.com (@GOLF_com) May 19, 2019
That he won despite a round of 4-over 74 on Sunday is a testament to the quality of golf he’d played through the first three rounds. The tournament started with Koepka blitzing the opening round on Thursday with a seven-under 63. He followed that up with a 65 on Friday to set a 36-hole majors scoring record. The two-day performance gave Koepka plenty of room for the weekend, which he turned out to need.
Despite the back-nine hiccup, Koepka righted himself to claim his fourth major championship, which puts him behind only Tiger Woods (15) and Phil Mickelson (5) amongst active players. He also stakes claim to the No. 1 ranking in the world, moving past … Dustin Johnson.
While Koepka hasn’t shown much use for developing a brand to move more golf shoes or providing copy that would drive more internet clicks, it’s clear this run is going to be known for the flatline approach he uses for almost every situation on the golf course.
That cold mindset was even apparent in his pre-tournament news conference when he methodically showed why he thought majors were easier to win than lesser events.
“[There’s] 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat,” Koepka said. “From there, the other — you figure about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just -- pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys.”
Koepka used the news conference to also say he “doesn’t see why” he can’t set a double-digit goal for major victories. It’s a weighty goal, but one that seems slightly more sane considering he immediately went out and increased his total by one.
How long Koepka keeps this up is hard to determine. You can go back earlier in the decade and see the same sort of things being written about Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. Winning multiple majors plus handling all the money, fame and expectations that go with it is a tough challenge.
If anyone can do it, though, it might be Koepka. He’s playing in one of golf’s most talent-laden eras yet he keeps turning these majors into one-man shows.
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