How Brooks Koepka went from missing putts to making them in one week
Brooks Koepka rolled in his first putt on the 1st hole at TPC Southwind on Thursday. A 9-foot birdie. Koepka rolled in his first putt on the 2nd hole. A 7-foot birdie. Koepka rolled in his first putt on the 4th hole. A 23-foot birdie. Three one-putts. Three birdies. Three out of the first four holes.
A day earlier, Koepka had met with renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon. He was at the bottom. Literally. The week before, at the 3M Open, Koepka was 154th in the strokes gained: putting metric in the first round, was 123rd in the second round, then went home for the weekend.
The lesson sunk in. The putts started sinking in.
Koepka added a 6-foot birdie putt on 8. An 18-foot birdie putt on 9. Another 18-footer on 11. A 7-footer on 13. In all, he birdied half of his holes, shot an 8-under 62 – tied for the lowest round of his career – and grabbed a two-shot lead after the first round of the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
“Yesterday I was talking to him and was like, ‘Listen, I’m struggling pretty bad and need your help. There’s a reason you’re the best out here,’” Koepka said of his conversation with Kenyon.
They made three adjustments. They changed how he stands over the ball. They changed his stance. They changed his grip.
After the first round, he was 10th in the field in strokes gained: putting. The field is smaller this week – just 78 players, no cut. The difference in putting is big.
“First off, you always know my ball sits off the toe, so that’s changed – it’s over the center, over the line now,” Koepka said. “My heel is usually off the ground, and it’s no longer off the ground. Just the way my left hand kind of works through the putting stroke has become a little bit different.”
It wasn’t Koepka’s only lesson.
Over the weekend, he met with swing coach Claude Harmon III. They noticed his weight distribution was off at impact. Koepka and caddie Ricky Elliott watched video of his 2018 and 2019 PGA Championship victories. (This year’s tournament is next week.) They noticed that his left foot was set up differently. The adjustments helped alleviate the stress on his surgically repaired left knee.
Koepka met, too, with his short game coach, Pete Cowen. The actual short game talk appeared to have been short.
“Yeah, there were a lot of expletives I can’t say during this, probably get fined, but yeah, he beat me up pretty good,” Koepka said. “Kind of – you get a little down – you play as bad as this, it’s hard not to be a little bit down on yourself and trying to figure out why.
“You know, I guess you’re kind of thinking negatively or waiting kind of for that first bad shot or first bad thing to happen. It’s going to happen very quickly. You know, he got on me pretty good. … And I appreciate everything that Pete does, even though he is chewing me out.”