‘I chal­lenged QA Brooks to & change his at­ti­tude’

Af­ter help­ing Koepka to three Ma­jors in two years Pete Cowen re­veals how it took a dress­ing down at the 2017 US Open to take him from nearly man to fu­ture world No.1...

Today's Golfer (UK) - - FIRST TEE -

Brooks has al­most come from nowhere to win three of the last six Ma­jors. What’s changed?

His body lan­guage. In 2017, I was at the Fedex St Jude the week be­fore Erin Hills. I walked all four rounds with him and watched his body lan­guage. He was ask­ing the ques­tion of why me. ‘I’m fin­ish­ing sec­ond all the time, I can’t seem to win.’ I wasn’t im­pressed. So, on the Tues­day of Erin Hills, I sat him down with his cad­die, Ricky, and said, ‘With that sort of at­ti­tude, you’re not go­ing to win any­thing.’ I chal­lenged him to change his at­ti­tude and show the at­ti­tude of a cham­pion. On the flag [he gave me] from Erin Hills, he’s put ‘thanks for the bol­lock­ing’. Since then he has just taken off.

Soon af­ter though, Brooks spent four months nurs­ing a wrist in­jury. How se­ri­ous was it?

He had an op­er­a­tion and he was in a cast for al­most a month. At the Play­ers Cham­pi­onship, he had an­other re­cur­rence when a buggy driver drove straight in front of him when he was about to hit. He stopped so quickly that the wrist popped a lit­tle bit. He was fear­ful of that, but me and Ricky, his cad­die, told him to get on with it, it’s only a lit­tle bit of pain. Thank­fully he did. He was think­ing that it might be badly in­jured again, but he was all right. To come back and win two Ma­jors out of three just shows how good he is.

Were you sur­prised by how quickly he was able to con­tend – and win – again?

It al­ways sur­prises you when peo­ple win two Ma­jors in one year. We were used to it in the Woods era, but it doesn’t hap­pen that much th­ese days. He’s won three Ma­jors of the six he’s played. It’s pretty im­pres­sive.

Do you think Brooks is un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated?

Yes, I’d say so. When you’re with him, you can tell it ran­kles him a lit­tle bit. When he looked at the odds for the PGA Cham­pi­onship, he kept say­ing ‘how’s he in front of me?’ But on the flight from the WGC Bridge­stone, he said to me that ‘they’re go­ing to have to play re­ally well to beat me this week, the way I’m play­ing.’ Peo­ple ask if he’s the com­plete player and when you look at what he does, you’d say he hasn’t got many weak­nesses at all.

Do you put his improve­ment down to his short game?

We have a joke about it. At the start, he was one out of 10. Now he’s three out of 10, so he’s seen a 200 per cent improve­ment. To be fair, he prob­a­bly just plays the wrong shot at the wrong time. What we say is that if your life de­pended on it, what shot would you hit?

Has Brooks got a bit of a chip on his shoul­der about the lack of recog­ni­tion he’s re­ceived?

I think ev­ery­one al­ways cares, but it doesn’t seem to bother him too much. He just says I’ll show them with my play what I can do. But I’ve seen a change in him. He used to not sign many au­to­graphs, but he signs an aw­ful lot now. I said to him, ‘it’s karma, you’re get­ting back what you’re giv­ing. Maybe if you let peo­ple em­brace you, they’ll see what sort of guy you are.’ I think they all try to be like Woods used to be in the early 2000s – a bit aloof and sep­a­rated from the pack. It works for most peo­ple, but for Brooks he needs to show that there’s an­other side.

Does he ever come to your academy in Rother­ham to prac­tice?

He has been a few times to Sh­effield. There’s quite an in­ter­est­ing story to Brooks. When I was first in­tro­duced to him at Went­worth about five years ago, he was ask­ing me about short game and he said ‘if you’re that good, show me.’ I holed the first two bunker shots and he started to lis­ten. That was the start of our re­la­tion­ship. But he’s a great guy to work with and I re­ally like him.

In your mind and his mind, is Brooks the best player in the world right now?

Sim­ple an­swer? Yes. I don’t think there’s any other way to think. Once he gets to No.1, I think he will cre­ate the dis­tance Dustin John­son cre­ated be­tween every­body else. I think they will find it dif­fi­cult to stay with him.

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