Before the 2019 Open Championship, Brooks Koepka made some waves when he admitted that he doesn’t really, y’know, practice.
“I just practice before the majors,” Koepka said ahead of the first round at Royal Portrush. “Regular tournaments I don’t practice. If you’ve seen me on TV [at a regular PGA Tour event], that’s when I play golf.”
Koepka’s press appearances are entertaining because they’re unpredictable. Plenty of Tour pros try to manipulate the media, but few do so more effectively than Koepka. He takes the chip on his shoulder, mixes it with a bit of mischief, filters that combination through his day’s mood and then serves it to a group of reporters.
Enter Koepka on Wednesday at Mayakoba, speaking to reporters via Microsoft Teams.
Brooks, you mentioned at the beginning that you feel like you’ve been playing so bad for so long, one reporter said. Knowing that you’re not a range rat, how do you go about trying to play your way out of that?
Koepka does not like to be known. Nor does he like to be categorized. And he’s skeptical of the media, who he thinks take his words and skew them negatively. In fact there’s only one thing you can count on from his interviews: If you assume something about him, he’ll go out of his way to insist on the opposite. There was a revealing moment on Instagram last year when he was asked why he sometimes adopts a “meathead persona” and answered with a grin: “Just to f— with you, that’s why,” he said. He doesn’t want you to have a full handle on him. On Wednesday, he deemed the phrase “knowing that you’re not a range rat” worthy of correction.
“No, I’m a range rat,” he countered. “I’ll sit on the range all day. I’m healthy now, so I can practice and do everything I want to do.”
“I’ve just been grinding, man. You go through periods where you just feel like you’ve got no control of the clubhead or you don’t know exactly where your swing is and what you’re doing. It’s just frustrating.”
In some ways, it’s an obvious admission. Of course one of the best golfers in the world practices! We knew that, regardless of what Koepka had said previously. But Koepka can be occasionally performative and still insightful. He was both on Wednesday.
“Look, it’s been tough,” he added. “I mean, injuries for two years. I’ve got surgery on the right knee. The left knee’s better now, but it wasn’t good for a while. You start making compensations because you can’t — I mean, when my knee bends a little bit, I still don’t know how far it’s bending. If everybody’s ever had surgery, you still don’t know where you’re at for a bit and maybe [I was] hesitant to get on the left side when the left knee was hurting. Right knee, you’re kind of playing this yo-yo game and trying to find a balance.”
That’s interesting because Koepka is actually at his most interesting when he is his own vulnerable self. It’s not easy being a four-time major champ battling injuries, expectations and the very best golfers in the world, and sometimes he lets us in. He hasn’t been playing up to his standards of late; he hasn’t cracked the top 20 in his six starts since July.
He also knows it’s tough just to be on Tour; he acknowledged as much when discussing his brother Chase’s pursuit on the mini-tours.
“[You] just keep grinding away and hope every week’s going to be your week or the next week’s going to be your week where it’s a breakthrough,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys who deserve to be out here just aren’t out here. They just haven’t caught the break.”
As for that practice? Koepka dished on that, too, and how his time on the range is different than that of his peers because of his low-tech approach.
“I really don’t use much of TrackMan,” he said, asked about technological advancements in professional golf. “I bought TrackMan years ago and I think after like two weeks I just gave it to my brother.
“For me, that’s just how it goes. I get too consumed in numbers and numbers that are unimportant in trying to make everything perfect. I’ve kind of done that even with a yardage book, I can get consumed by the information and want to know everything and want everything to be perfect. You know, golf, you can’t be perfect in this game. So I’ve learned that, so I put all the information to the side.”
If you’re keeping score at home, Brooks Koepka is a range guy. He is a feel guy. He’s not a Trackman guy. And he wants to find something this week, even if it’s just one feeling from one shot.
“You never know, you could rattle off a good year, a good couple months, whatever it might be just from that one swing,” he said.
I’m pretty sure he even meant it, too.