Is this version of Brooks Koepka as good as Peak-Tiger?
Every night of major weeks, the GOLF.com staff congregates to debate one over-arching question in a daily form of Tour Confidential. Today we ask…
Is this version of Brooks Koepka as good as Peak Tiger Woods?
Sean Zak, associate editor (@sean_zak): Can any of us actually say no? As Dylan Dethier pointed out Friday, there are many similarities, both in how they play, but also how they act. And so when I look up at that scoreboard and see at 7-stroke lead MAINTAINED while the whole field chases for another 18 holes, I can’t help but try to equate the two. I will, of course, defer to my elders on this one.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer (@alanshipnuck): Yes. He just has to maintain this pace for two more seasons, then take a short breather, then do it all over again, and then throw in a few more epic major wins and then we can say he compares (unfavorably) to Tiger. But Brooks is definitely playing at a Tiger-like level this minute.
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor (@jeff_ritter): This week is absolutely vintage Tiger. The score, the swagger, the stare, it’s all there. The difference of course is that peak-Tiger had several blowout major victories, including record-setting routs at Augusta and the Pebble Beach U.S. Open. But Koepka now has his Sistine Chapel along with three other major wins. He’s the closest thing to Tiger since … Tiger.
Jess Marksbury, senior editor (@jess_marksbury): You make a really good point, Sean. I walked for a while with Koepka’s girlfriend, Jena Sims, today, and she described Kopeka as “mentally gifted” — as in, he is hyper-focused and doesn’t stress out on the golf course. Tiger’s mental edge set him apart from his peers perhaps even more than his prodigious physical talent. Given Koepka’s recent major championship performances, it seems more and more obvious that he’s cut from the same cloth in that respect. I was still a bit of a young’n in Tiger’s real heyday, but I imagine it felt a lot like what we’re witnessing right now.
Luke Kerr-Dineen, instruction editor (@lukekerrdineen): Come on with that. No, Brooks is not as good as Peak Tiger, who won 22 times including seven of 10 majors. If Brooks wins by 15 at Pebble next month, maybe I’ll start considering it. BUT, I will give you this — it’s the best we’ve seen a golfer play since peak Tiger. I’m pretty sure Brooks would lay waste to any other golfers who would be considered in that bracket. 2014 Rory; 2015 Spieth; 2005 Tiger would probably be close, which is such a remarkably high bar. It’s not just that Brooks is playing at an astonishingly high level, it’s that he’s sustained it now for a considerable period of time.
Jon Wall, equipment editor (@jonathanrwall): It doesn’t seem all that crazy. Brooks has proven he can play at a high level in majors for three straight years, and that’s really only something we’ve seen from Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. That being said, I’d still take Tiger in a head-to-head. His sustained level of greatness during the peak of his career is unmatched during the modern era.
Dylan Dethier, associate editor (@dylan_dethier): He’s actually better — the same way LeBron is better than Jordan. Golfers have become better in these 20 years, and the fact that Koepka is dominating anyway is wildly impressive. But even a few minutes with the Koepka-Woods group yesterday will remind you that they’re viewed very, very differently. And that’s an important part of the story, too.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Peak Tiger won by 12, by 15, by six and seven and eight. Koepka owns himself. Woods owned everybody. He was better. Not saying night and day, but better.