After Masters ‘choke,’ Brooks Koepka couldn’t sleep. On Sunday, redemption awaits
At some point after his crushing 29-and-a-half-hole Sunday at the Masters last month, Brooks Koepka crawled into bed, closed his eyes and…couldn’t switch off.
He must have been exhausted after his marathon outing, both physically and emotionally. At breakfast that morning, he had held a four-shot lead over mighty Jon Rahm. After the completion of the third round, around midday, Koepka’s advantage was just two. You know what happened next: Koepka couldn’t summon the magic that had carried him through the first three days, and Rahm not only caught him but also left him in the pollen. By round’s end, Rahm was the victor by four.
Koepka, who had never lost a 54-hole major lead in four previous attempts, was shaken.
“I reflected all Sunday night,” he said earlier this week at Oak Hill. “I didn’t sleep Sunday night just trying to figure out what exactly it was. Thought about it for a few days after and really honed in on what I was doing and what went wrong.”
Koepka said he finally extracted some learnings, though he was reluctant to share them with the press. But on Saturday evening at the PGA Championship — following his second-consecutive four-under 66 — Koepka did offer some more color. Well, sort of.
“To just never think the way I thought going into the final round,” Koepka said when asked what Masters Sunday taught him. “I think that was a big thing for me but other than that I think learning what I learned at Augusta kind of helped today. Like I said, I won’t do it again the rest of my career.”
How or what Koepka was thinking heading into that Masters round we don’t know. The only hint we got of his mindset Saturday evening at the Masters was this quote: “I’m not too concerned about playing 29 holes or however many holes we’ve got left. It’s part of the deal. I’m pretty sure I’ll be up for it considering it is the Masters. So I don’t think anybody should have a problem with that.”
On Monday of this week, Koepka went as far as to characterize his Masters Sunday as a “choke.” “It was pretty bad,” he said on the Pardon My Take podcast. “I mean, c’mon, you’ve got a four-shot lead. All you’ve got to do — I was playing good and just choked it away. But it’s all right. We’ll figure it out.”
What Koepka continues to do in the majors is nothing short of remarkable. After injuries plagued him for the last couple of years, he appears to be back in full alpha-dog-ass-kicking mode. Eight under on this brute of a course over two days, with Rochester throwing some of its foulest weather at the field? It’s awe-inspiring stuff.
If Koepka can protect his one-shot lead Sunday and prevail, he’ll join a rarified list of 19 golfers who have won five or more majors. The victory would also represent his third PGA Championship title. Koepka’s not a big golf-history guy, but he does mull his place in the game. “I was just told that I think only Tiger and Jack have won three [PGAs],” Koepka said Saturday, “so that would be pretty special to be in a list or category with them.”
In fact, five players have won three or more PGAs (like we said, not a big history guy) — Nicklaus and Walter Hagen (five each), Woods (four) and Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead (three each) — but Koepka’s point is taken. This is another massive opportunity for him.
Will he seize it? If he doesn’t, it could be another sleepless night.