‘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...
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.