Brooks Koepka explains his ‘regret’ from controversial PGA Championship comments
The 102nd PGA Championship was already shaping up to be a good one after 54 holes. Dustin Johnson was leading, young stars were threatening, and Brooks Koepka was just two shots back and eyeing a historic PGA three-peat.
But then the tournament added an extra dose of intrigue on Saturday evening, after Koepka spoke to the media.
“A lot of the guys on the leaderboard, I don’t think have won [a major],” he said. “I guess DJ has only won one. I don’t know a lot of the other guys up there.”
Some thought Koepka’s brutal honesty was refreshing. Others thought he was taking an unnecessary jab at Johnson (“DJ has only won one”) and the other players in contention (“I don’t know a lot of the other guys up there”). It was the topic of segments on SportsCenter and Golf Channel that night, and even Rory McIlroy chimed in on Sunday, saying he was “taken aback a little bit.”
In an interview published on Wednesday night with Golfweek’s Eamon Lynch, Koepka explained the intent of his comments, what he regrets about the situation, how he believes he’s viewed on Tour and more.
Koepka told Golfweek he saw Johnson leading at nine under, so Johnson became his primary focus. When he said he didn’t know a lot of the guys tied with him or ahead of him — which most took as a knock on their resumes — he said he meant he had not looked to see who was there. He said he literally didn’t know which players were ahead of him.
“I was focused on Dustin. I had no idea who was at 8 [under] or with me at 7 [under]. To be honest, when I’m looking at a leaderboard I’m never looking at who is behind me or tied with me, I only look ahead,” Koepka said. “I view myself as going forward no matter what. So I regret that part of it. That’s what I was trying to say — that I didn’t know who was on the leaderboard at that point because I hadn’t looked. I just genuinely didn’t know the guys at 8 and 7. That part I regret and I wish I had used different words because I didn’t pay enough attention to who was under Dustin because he was my main focus. When someone asks if I can win, I’m always going to say yes, that’s the competitor in me. I’m not there to finish second. I think that’s where some of the cocky stuff comes from because I always think I can win and truly believe it.”
Asked specifically if it’s the “other guys” comment he regretted, Koepka agreed.
“Yeah, it’s definitely that part because that’s a shot at all the other guys,” he said. “We pretty much know everybody, we grew up playing golf with them and it came across that I had no idea who these guys are. And that’s completely false.”
Koepka also said he has not spoken to any of the players in the field about his comments in the days since, and he does not plan to reach out to Johnson.
Koepka shot a four-over 74 in the final round of the PGA, which dropped him into a tie for 29th. Three others also shot 74 on Sunday, and only one player, Jim Herman (75) signed for a higher score.
“I’ve been portrayed as the villain, right? I’m different, super competitive, fiery. My idea of talking trash is a whole lot different than other people’s,” Koepka told Golfweek. “I get the whole villain thing and I can definitely play into it, and I have as you’ve seen with the whole Brandel [Chamblee] thing. Not being afraid to chirp up. But if you’re going to do that then you’ve got to back it up and last week I didn’t back it up. I’m okay with the repercussions of that. I’ve got thick skin. I can handle it.”
Koepka is back in action this week. His first-round tee time for the Wyndham Championship is 7:50 a.m. (ET) on Thursday. He’s playing alongside Justin Rose and Jordan Spieth for the first two rounds.
You can read the full Golfweek interview with Koepka here.