After Brooks Koepka blistered Bethpage Black with a seven-under 63, he was asked to name the best hole at one of America golf’s toughest golf courses.
He hemmed and hawed and thought some more before finally saying: “All seven of them that I birdied today. We’ll go with that.”
It’s Koepka’s world right now and we’re just living in it.
Even playing-competitor Tiger Woods, who edged Koepka by a stroke at the Masters, was impressed.
“That was probably the highest score he could have shot today,” Woods said, noting he could’ve gone a couple lower.
Indeed, Koepka failed to birdie either of Bethpage’s par-fives and, yet, he still became the first player to shoot 63 in a major in consecutive years and his last four rounds at the PGA over the past two years is a pair of 63s and 66s.
All of this comes as no surprise to Graeme McDowell.
“I think he’s the best player in the world at the minute,” McDowell said. “Aside from Rory, maybe one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen. Rory is just pure natural talent and this guy is just pure brute talent.”
Yet, despite winning three of his last seven major starts, Koepka, the world No 3, in the famous words of Rodney Dangerfeld, can’t get no respect.
Earlier this month, Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee conceded that Koepka was “on a heck of a run”, but left him off a list of challengers to Woods at Bethpage that featured Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy.
“You try to get your arms around what kind of player Brooks is,” Chamblee said.
Is he truly a great player — a staggering talent — or is he in a great run? Tiger and Jack, they won regular events at the same clip they won majors. When you start to put the pieces of the puzzle together, this is very good stuff. I just need more evidence. I need more time.
He won three major championships that were more about power than they were about accuracy. This week, it will be equally about power and accuracy. Golf courses like this are a better measure of what type of player we’re going to see.”
In response, Koepka posted a Photoshopped image of Chamblee with a clown nose. Such slights only seem to fuel Koepka to greater heights, but Koepka does have his supporters, including CBS commentator Jim Nantz, who came to his defence during a conference call with reporters ahead of the PGA Championship.
“Poor Brooks Koepka,” Nantz said.
If I don’t bring up his name right now, you guys are never gonna bring him up. It’s borderline tragic in terms of how you cover a player or subject. He’s having the best run in golf since Tiger in 2000 and 2001.
We’re gonna create the story there and it’s just not interesting enough to us to be able to give the guy the time. Forget how much time he exerts and gives to those of us who cover him. I’m not concerned with that. I’m just talking about facts.
There’s no doubting Koepka seems to have found a winning formula in the majors and he’s unlikely to float under the radar for much longer if he keeps collecting golf’s biggest trophies on his mantle.
When asked on Tuesday how many majors he thought he could win, he answered: “I see no reason I can’t get to double digits.”
That would put him in rarefied company. To Koepka, winning majors are the easiest titles to win and he explained his thinking behind his philosophy.
“There’s 156 players in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them, I’m just going to beat,” Koepka said.
“The other half, half of them won’t play well, so you’re down to maybe 35. The pressure is going to get to some of them. That leaves only a few more, and you’ve just got to beat those guys. One of the big things I’ve learned is you don’t have to try to go win it; just hang around. If you hang around, good things happen.”
It was shades of Jack Nicklaus, who followed a similar game plan to 18 majors. Count World No. 1 Dustin Johnson among those in his corner.
“I feel like he definitely could do it,” Johnson said. “He’s a great player. He does have a lot of confidence, but that’s what you need in this game.”
Bethpage Black is a big, brawny ballpark that seems built for him, but it was his short stick that did the most damage en route to shooting 63 yesterday.
“My putter was hot today,” Koepka said. “I’m not gonna lie.”
The best club in his bag may be his mental strength; he’s a flatliner, who says he sometimes “blacks out in the middle of rounds”, and has found a way to focus during the biggest and pressure-filled events.
“He seems to relish the big-time stages and, to go off with Tiger this morning, a lesser man would have wilted,” McDowell said. “The guy has something a little special.”