‘Pretty obvious, isn’t it?’ Brooks Koepka unflinching in PGA self-assessment

Brooks Koepka watches his tee shot on the fourth hole on the fourth hole during the final round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club

Brooks Koepka during the final round of the PGA Championship.

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Brooks Koepka was a trendy pick heading into the 106th PGA Championship, and not just because he was the defending champion. He’d won LIV’s Singapore event earlier this month, and, with much rain in the forecast, Valhalla was destined to play long and soft — optimal conditions for Koepka and the rest of the field’s mashers. Koepka also had something to prove. He was so disappointed with his Masters performance in April that he apologized to his team and accepted a penance of “punishment workouts” from his trainer. There was one other thing, too. This was a major week, and far more often than not in those weeks, Koepka looks — and plays — like a golfer not to be fooled with.

“My demeanor and focus is just different. I can’t explain it,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t really know how to or what I really do different. But everybody on the team can kind of see it and they kind of know I can walk right past them and I don’t even know that they are there sometimes. It’s just it’s a grinding week. You’ve got to be fully locked in. I feel like you can’t take one shot off. I love that. It’s always, you’re one shot away from making a double-bogey and that’s what I love.”

Game on.

And early in the proceedings the game was on for Koepka. In the opening round he made an eagle and three birdies to shoot a four-under 67. A day later, he made eight birdies but also a double bogey for a 68 that moved him to seven under for the week, five off Xander Schauffele’s 36-hole lead. With a strong Saturday, on a damp course that was ripe for scoring, Koepka could position himself for a run at his fourth Wanamaker Trophy.

And yet on a day that would produce a 69.55 scoring average — the lowest average score to par in a PGA Championship round ever — Koepka could not summon his big-game hunting prowess. An opening bogey set the tone. That was followed by a double at 5 and another bogey at 9 for a front-nine 39. He made another bogey on 12 and saved his only birdies of the round for the final two holes to sign for a shocking three-over 74. In the third round only two players carded higher scores. Koepka’s title hopes were over.

When he returned to the course Sunday morning alongside playing partner Nicolai Hojgaard, Koepka played more like the guy we are accustomed to seeing in the majors, making six birdies against a lone bogey. But his 66 was too little too late, and he was none too impressed with his performance. Asked to assess his week after the round, Koepka used three words: “Not very good.” Then he added seven more: “I think it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?”   

After his dispiriting Masters, Koepka was asked, did he feel like he’d made any progress at Valhalla.

Brooks Koepka reacts to a shot at the PGA Championship
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“I don’t think finishing 30th is progress. Played good today, played good the other two days. Yesterday just didn’t have anything. Was kind of disappointed with the way I finished.”

Koepka has a knack for getting to the point. At the Masters last month, when a reporter (okay, this one) asked him if Augusta National could possibly yield a 59 in tournament conditions, he said, “Have you played here?

Not yet,” I said.

To which he replied, I can tell by the question.”

On Sunday afternoon, Koepka was asked what was the difference between his third round and fourth.

“I don’t know, what, about eight shots?”

Eight on the button, in fact. When pressed for more color, Koepka said, “Yesterday I don’t think I did one thing good at all. Usually when you play bad, you’ve got one thing that you do okay and you might putt bad or you might drive it bad. Yesterday was just a combination of everything.” His third round not withstanding, Koepka said, “I think I’m pretty close right there.”

Koepka’s form will be hard to gauge before his next major start, at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst next month. Between now and then, LIV has just one event on its schedule, its Houston tournament from June 7-9.  

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.

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