Brooks Koepka – photo Getty Images Christian Petersen
Four time major champion, Brooks Koepka, returned from what he described as a ‘dark place’ to win his 8th PGA Tour title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale on the outskirts of Phoenix in Arizona.
Koepka, whose last three starts have resulted in missed cuts, had begun to doubt his capacity to return to the level of golf he had played when dominating the elite game in 2018 and 2019 although he maintains his game was in better shape that results suggested.
“My game was, it’s been in really good shape. I really like the way I’ve been playing. You know, just had to stay patient. Just felt like we got through the par-3 on the back, what is that, 12? And my caddie told me I’m still right in the thing. Just need to make some putts.”
“Yeah, you know, I went through it mentally,” said Koepka soon after his victory referring to his return from injury. “I think that’s probably the toughest thing, where you don’t know if you’re ever going to be the same competitor that you were.
“You go through some real dark places, and it’s not a fun place to be. Going to spend time with Derek (injury), three months out in La Jolla changed things for me. It’s just a lot of hard work that’s gone into this. Man, it’s pretty cool.”
Koepka underwent stem cell treatment on his left knee in 2019 to get back to full strength at that stage but then slipped on wet concrete in South Korea, re-injuring the tendon.
Koepka came from five off the 54 hole pace today with a final round of 65 which included two eagles, the most remarkable when holing the most difficult of pitches from off the green at the reachable par 4 17th.
The pitch from a lower area needed to negotiate a couple of greenside sprinklers, take a little speed off in the fringe then release down to the hole. It was inch perfect and beautifully executed.
“I felt like the chip, it was — if I just caught it right in the fringe it was going to check up on me, and it did perfectly. Took a nice little right kick for me, and didn’t look anywhere else but the hole.”
The shot came at the perfect time as it established a two-shot lead which his chasers were unable catch.
Twelve months ago, Koepka was still the number one player in the game but he has slipped to 13th although this win will have him heading back in the right direction both statistically and from the viewpoint of confidence.
Xander Schauffele and K.H. Lee tied for second a shot behind Koepka while the five way tie for 4th included yet another rejuvenated player in Jordan Spieth who recorded his best finish in 18 months, Steve Stricker, who made a bold bid to become the oldest person to win on the PGA Tour and Carlos Ortiz.
Matt Jones was the only Australian to make the cut and finished 30th.
Despite frustration on the greens today it was an encouraging week for Jordan Spieth. Christian Petersen Getty