Koepka Holds Off Woods To Win 100th PGA Cham­pi­onship

Makes in­cred­i­ble come­back from in­jury to ma­jor wins

Golf Asia - - CONTENTS - BY JIM SLATER IMAGES © SAM GREEN­WOOD/GETTY IMAGES/AFP

Sit­ting on a couch watch­ing the Masters on tele­vi­sion with an in­jured left wrist, Brooks Koepka never dreamed he would win two ma­jors this year, much less bat­tle his boy­hood idols. But the 28-year-old Amer­i­can did just that, de­fend­ing his ti­tle at the US Open in June and tak­ing his third ma­jor crown at the PGA Cham­pi­onship by two strokes over Tiger Woods.

"When I look at what I've done in the past two months, it's in­cred­i­ble," Koepka said. "Look­ing where I was, sit­ting on my couch watch­ing the Masters, to think I would do this, I would have laughed at you and told you there was no way, no chance. I can't even be­lieve it."

As im­pres­sive as his long drives was Koepka's cool­ness un­der pres­sure, a com­po­sure that has be­come a trade­mark.

"When I show up to the ma­jors I'm very fo­cused, very dis­ci­plined," he said. "For some rea­son the ma­jors get my at­ten­tion. When you're fir­ing at flags you have to be calm and fo­cus on ev­ery shot."

To bat­tle Woods and 2013 Masters win­ner Adam Scott, an Aus­tralian who took third, was a dream for Koepka, who idol­ized both in his youth. "To duel it out with them, it's pretty neat. I don't think I ever dreamed of that sit­u­a­tion that I was in," Koepka said. "It re­ally is sur­real."

Woods was im­pressed with Koepka's skill. "It's tough to beat when the guy hits it 340 (yards) down the mid­dle," Woods said of Koepka. "When a guy's do­ing that and hit­ting it straight and as good a put­ter as he is, it's tough to beat."

Scott sees how Koepka han­dles him­self in the big­gest mo­ments. "What has been in­ter­est­ing to watch is how much of a big time player he is," Scott said. "I'd just keep do­ing what he's do­ing be­cause he's

show­ing up at the right mo­ments in the big­gest events. He's got that mind­set. There's some­thing in­side his brain that makes him be­lieve that's what he's des­tined to do."

Koepka gets into a rou­tine and keeps swing coach Claude Har­mon III, his chef and a phys­io­ther­a­pist near dur­ing ma­jors. "He has a unique abil­ity on these re­ally in­tense weeks to be the calmest he is all year," Har­mon said. "Brooks is a crea­ture of habit. He en­joys keep­ing the same guys around him. He likes the rou­tine. That's one rea­son he's so suc­cess­ful. He's able to keep things nor­mal. He doesn't get too high. He doesn't get too low."

He ad­mits be­ing down when in­jured but adds, "I've never been more fo­cused, more driven, more ex­cited to play." Koepka has won three ma­jors in 14 months, the fastest such run since Ire­land's Padraig Har­ring­ton took the 2007 Bri­tish Open and 2008 Bri­tish Open and PGA.

'One of the best shots'

Koepka was most proud of a 247-yard tee shot to six feet that set up a birdie at the par-3 16th hole. "I hit a laser right at the flag," he said. "That will prob­a­bly go down as prob­a­bly one of the best shots I've ever hit un­der pres­sure."

And he felt pres­sure as the roars for Woods re­ver­ber­ated across the course.

"You could hear a dif­fer­ent roar like ev­ery 30 sec­onds, so we knew what was go­ing on," Koepka said. "It's pretty ob­vi­ous when Tiger makes a birdie. I'm sure ev­ery­one is root­ing for him. I was very im­pressed with the way I hung in there. But to hear some of these roars, I can't even be­gin to tell you."

Even so, it didn't rock Koepka's in­domitable self-con­fi­dence.

"I knew even when ev­ery­body was mak­ing that charge, if I just hung in there, made one good shot at a time, kept it rolling, I was go­ing to have a chance to sep­a­rate my­self," Koepka said. "And that fi­nally came."

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Brooks Koepka poses with the Wana­maker Tro­phy af­ter win­ning the 2018 PGA Cham­pi­onship with a score of -16 at Bel­lerive Coun­try Club

Adam Scott plays his shot from the 15th tee dur­ing the fi­nal round

If Tiger had found more fair­ways and made more putts it may have been a very dif­fer­ent fi­nal

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