It wasn’t the breakthrough the golf world was expecting Sunday morning, but it was a significant breakthrough nonetheless. Brooks Koepka won for the first time in 18 months Sunday at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and for the first time since a string of knee issues plagued his 2020 campaign.
While the golf world didn’t give up on Koepka entirely, his odds to win this week’s event had dropped down into the 40-1 or 50-1 range. Even months ago, Koepka admitted he had given up on himself a bit.
“There was a period maybe for about two months where I just questioned whether I was ever going to be the same,” Koepka said after his win. “Whether I was even going to be somewhat remotely the same golfer that I ever was.”
And to be fair, he was definitely in a rut. Koepka netted just one top 5 finish in the 2020 calendar year, and had recently missed three straight cuts on the PGA Tour. He had dropped to No. 13 in the world golf ranking for the first time since he won his first major championship at Erin Hills in 2017.
Koepka’s rapid resurgence to the top of a Tour leaderboard is a far cry from where he at least felt he was six months ago. Koepka called the Memorial tournament in July his low point of the last 18 months. “I was in excruciating pain,” he recalled. “I was being told that my knee was still the same. The frustration of just trying to play and knowing I’m not myself, knowing I’m not even close to what I’m capable of doing, I can’t compete. I’m trying to compete, but I just can’t. I can’t swing the golf club like I want to.”
Koepka detailed how he spent multiple months in La Jolla, Calif. with his physical therapist Derek Samuel working on his knee’s health. Months and months of work that didn’t quite show how effective it could be until Sunday.
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“We stuck with it,” Koepka said. “Those dark places, a lot of tears, questioning yourself, and in dark places mentally. You’ve got to come out of that. I spent so much time in La Jolla with Derek where I kind of used it as refresher to reset things. I’ll tell you what, it takes a lot of effort just do get out of those places.”
Koepka’s win was his second career victory at TPC Scottsdale and moved him up just one spot to no. 12 in the world golf ranking. Suddenly the golf world seems to be thinking differently about the 4-time major champion than it was just one week ago.