Although the Black Course at Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York is a public course, it is a notoriously tough track. The fairways are narrow (26-29 yards wide), the fescue-mixed rough is so thick a ball disappears into oblivion, and when the wind picks up it becomes nearly impossible to post a score under par. There is a reason they have a warning sign on the walk to the first tee.
In the leadup to the first round of the PGA Championship, the analysts predicted a winning score of 4-6-under. They said the bombers would struggle with the narrow fairways and it was going to take someone with deft accuracy and a brilliant flatstick to lift the Wanamaker Trophy. Apparently, Brooks Koepka didn’t get the message.
After day one, Koepka was 7-under, shooting a course record 63. He backed it up with a 5-under 65 on Friday and looked to be on track to run away with the tournament like Tiger’s 12-shot margin of victory in the 1997 Masters and the 15-stroke demolition of the field in the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
The seven-stroke lead after 54-holes made the 2019 PGA Championship all but a done deal, but Sunday was not without its drama. If all you saw was the two-stroke margin of victory after the round, you may understandably assume it was an easy walk in the park, a coronation of the champion, moreso than a dogfight to the end.
However, Dustin Johnson played incredible golf in 25 mile an hour winds, and kept the pressure on Brooks all day, especially as he began to falter. As Koepka carded four consecutive bogeys on holes 11 through 14, he saw his lead dwindled to one amidst chants of “DJ! DJ! DJ!” throughout the grounds.
Though, all the chants did was fire up the defending champion. Feeding off the crowd’s growing pull for Johnson, Koepka turned the chants into fuel, making pars on 15 and 16, righting the ship and restoring a 3-stroke advantage. Bogey on 17 meant he carried a two-shot lead heading into 18.
Bogey wins it, it was a simple as that as Brooks stood on the 18th tee. After a pulled tee shot that left him in a tough spot, a 5 looked to be the likely outcome. However, Brooks took his medicine, chunked it back onto the fairway and set himself up for the win.
A brilliant wedge shot and a clutch par putt later, and Koepka successfully defended his PGA Championship, just as he had done at Shinnecock Hills in the 2018 U.S. Open.
Brooks Koepka is an enigma in the sense that he doesn’t seem to be affected by the same pressures the other top players feel in big events. To him, it’s just golf. He’s out there doing his job, and at the end of the day, whether he wins or loses, his life won’t change that much. He knows the people around him will still support him and tomorrow will be a new day.
During Brooks’ PGA Championship winning post-tournament press conference, a reporter asked what was the biggest slight, or disrespect, he had received from a member of the media? Without hesitation Koepka responded, “Telling me I wasn’t tough. That pissed me off. That really pissed me off.”
An uncomfortable silence accompanied a fiery, intense stare from Brooks. It was obvious the original comment on his toughness had really struck a nerve. Eventually, the reporter broke the silence and asked who had said that? Koepka coolly replied, “I think we all know.”
For those a little out of the loop, Koepka was referring to comments made by Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee during the “Live From The Masters” telecast after the second round at Augusta.
Chamblee said, “But I’ve heard people say this. You extrapolate from accomplishment, you infer qualities from a human being like, ‘He’s really tough.’ Maybe he is, I don’t know. I’ve got to say, I still need to be convinced.”
Are you convinced now, Brandel? Sure, you’re paid to give opinions, but some things you say are just simply ridiculous and without merit. That statement is one of them.
Brooks Koepka is currently the best golfer in the world. He not only passes the eye-test, the numbers back it up, too. It’s time the golfing world gives this man his due.
He has now won 4 of the last 8 majors, is the Official World Golf Rankings #1 Player in the World and fears no one inside or outside of the ropes. His 2.383 strokes gained on approach shots at Bethpage was tops for the week.
The criticism of his game and focus outside majors is unfounded, as well. While he’s only won one non-major in his PGA Tour Career, he’s finished second 8 times since the beginning of the 2016 season. As Koepka said in his presser, “Second sucks. But, I played good every time.”
It is unfortunate that people question his passion and dedication to his craft because his job is not his everything. We could all take a page from the Brooks Koepka book and remember that win or lose, life goes on. There are more important things in life than winning a golf tournament. Although, back-to-back PGA Championships is pretty darn special.
Brooks Koepka is a monster in majors, and he has clearly thrown down the gauntlet for every other player on Tour. If you’re going to win a major, you’re going to have to go through Brooks.
These are the clubs Brooks Koepka used to win the 2019 PGA Championship. (As reported by PGATOUR).
TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80TX shaft), 16.5°
Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3-iron; Fujikura Pro 95 Tour Spec X shaft)
Titleist Vokey Design SM4 TVD (60-08M degrees; True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shaft)
Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2
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