April 2019. Brooks Koepka leads after the first round of the last Masters. He is tied for the lead in the final round after a birdie on 15. He finishes tied for second. “It was right there on Sunday,” Koepka said Tuesday.
November 2020. Koepka shoots a third-round, 5-under 65 at last week’s Houston Open. He shoots a fourth-round, 5-under 65, capped by a 71-foot chip-in from just off the green. He ties for fifth. “I’m hitting it good,” Koepka said. “I knew I was hitting it good. I knew I was playing good.”
Koepka would win the PGA Championship a month after last year’s Masters. He then underwent a procedure on his left knee last August, fell and reinjured the knee last October, took four months off – and had two top 10s and four missed cuts over 12 events before last week. From “right there on Sunday.” From “playing good.” To not.
“The one thing I regret is not really doing the right things,” Koepka said Tuesday ahead of this week’s Masters. “It was more, I don’t want to say I was slacking, but I didn’t put the effort I needed to to rehab. And that’s on me, so I’ve got to live with that.
“I didn’t – I just thought there was a certain point, you know, I trained so hard, done all that before the Masters last year, where I was like, ‘I’m just going to take some time off from the gym. I’ve worked hard enough. I want to, you know, take a few months. Then just became lazy. Simple. I didn’t work hard enough and kind of had to redevote myself to working out in the gym, making sure that I’m getting better, because that’s the whole point of trying to get better. You’re not trying to stay the same.”
The redevotion came around the middle of this past summer.
Koepka contended at the PGA Championship three months ago, but at various points during the third round, had his hip worked on; he later revealed he was dealing with a torn labrum. He missed the cut the next week at the Wyndham Championship, then rehabbed in San Diego with his trainer, Derek Samuel, while not playing in a tournament until the middle of last month.
“It’s been a grind,” Koepka said. “I had to get my leg stronger just to be able to support my knee, and having Derek work on it every day for, I don’t know, 40 some days straight, definitely helped.
“Sometimes for me, it’s easier to actually focus when I’m on the road more than when I’m home. I feel like it’s more my element. When you’re out here playing, you’re on the road, it’s easy to focus. But sometimes when you’re at home, you have some distractions and things like that. It was nice to be out there and only have one goal every day, was just to go in the gym, go do rehab, get everything done, and I feel good.”
Koepka returned at last month’s CJ Cup in Las Vegas and tied for 28th. Then came last week’s finish, which included his lowest back-to-back weekend rounds since July of 2019.
He said this is the best he’s felt since before his fall last October.
“Everything’s fine, Koepka said. “I feel normal. Knee feels good. Hip, I haven’t had an issue with. Nice to have those two months rehabbing in San Diego and getting everything straightened away. Vegas was more just see how everything holds up and see where I’m at, and it felt good.”
And, in case you were wondering, none of this was because of Bryson DeChambeau, Koepka said. Also in between this year’s Masters and last, DeChambeau has added around 50 pounds, added distance and added a major, this year’s U.S. Open.
“I’m only worried about me, man,” Koepka said when asked if he thought DeChambeau seemed to surpass him in terms of workout effort. “I’m only worried about me. Nobody else out here is going to make me go lift in the gym. Nobody else out here is going to go make me work harder on the golf course. I’m worried about myself, just do what I got to do, take care of what I got to take care of, and they can do whatever they want to do.”