Brooks Koepka

USA Today

Leaderboard

Tiger was the better story, but Brooks Koepka is the better player.

August 13, 2018 - 10:15 am
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The 100th PGA Championship wasn’t too bad. Not too bad at all. In fact, it was so good, there’s a question as to where I start today – do I start with the guy who won or the guy who finished second. And I’m going to do what nobody else is doing and start with the guy who won. Because while there might not be a better story than Tiger Woods yesterday, there is no better player than Brooks Koepka right now. And if you didn’t know it before yesterday, you do now. 

Overlook Brooks Koepka… and pretty much everyone is. But do it at your own risk. And know this. Dude loves it. Lives for it. It’s rocket fuel to him. He wants you to do it. Tiger is getting a helluva lot more run this morning than Koepka and you know Brooks loves it. As I tweeted last night, Woods will get all that run, and then Koepka will come out of that major with an even bigger chip on his shoulder than he had going into it. 

You know, the guy who’s won’t two of the last three… and three of the last 6 majors he played in. The guy who is about to win the Player of the Year award, in a year where he wasn’t sure he’d be able to play because of a wrist injury. The guy who went from one PGA tour win to a member of the Hall of Fame in the last 14 months. 

And again, he’s a  guy who runs on the craziest fuel ever. He was pissed at the US Open when the Golf Channel didn’t include his score on a list of “notables.” And he was on fire Thursday after nobody wanted to talk to him after his first round. 

And as he said after the third round, he was bummed after people ignored him and focused on Dustin Johnson at the gym on Saturday. “I use it as motivation.” That’s the truth. And here’s another truth from Brooks: “You can’t hide when you’re on the top of the leaderboard. You can’t hide my name.”

He is the walking, talking, living, breathing, embodiment of “Leaderboard, look up at it.” 

He’s not the guy most people root for and he’s not the guy who anyone wanted to win yesterday. He knows that. And he loves it. And he’s not only the most overlooked guy in his own sport; he’s one of the most overlooked guys ever. In any sport!

And…let’s get another thing out of the way as well. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re obsessed with his arms and his drives and how much he benches, you’re focused on the wrong thing. Because Koepka isn’t one of those lunatics you see on longest drive competition re-runs. He’s the whole package.  

Sure, he can bomb it, like he did with that 330-yard drive on 15. But it was just as much about his putt on 15 as it was the drive. And it was just as much about the fact that he chased that with a perfect tee shot on 16 that stopped within 6 feet of the cup for another birdie to slam the door on the field. It’s not about how big this guy’s guns are. It’s about the fact that the bigger the stage, the better this dude plays. The higher the stakes, the more unbeatable he is. 

But yesterday was as much about what led to the door slam as the slam itself. Because Koepka had looks to end it earlier, and he didn’t. He had a number of birdie looks that didn’t go and for most golfers, panic would set in. Especially when Tiger birdied 15 and the world nearly lost its mind. 

It’s one thing to keep calm on the back 9 on Sunday in a major, it’s quite another when Tiger is doing what Tiger did yesterday and the entire world is freaking out over it. The roars were epic. And would’ve brought most other golfers to their knees. 

But Koepka didn’t even blink. Just birdied 15 himself and then chased it with another. Didn’t panic when the putts weren’t falling and then dropped them when he needed them. So clutch. So calm.

And yes, there was that drive on 18. 

Did you hear that reaction? There really were no words. Silence. He’s firing rockets like that, the kind that you dream about hitting on the range, and he’s doing it on the 72nd hole of a major. After the round, Tiger kept talking about Koepka’s driving distance. 340 in the air. 340 in the air. And that’s kind of all you can do when you watch him dominate in pressure situations like that. 

I’d ask if he has a pulse, but I know the answer: he doesn’t. You can’t if you’re going to rip this title with Tiger and Adam Scott right behind you. 

The cliché would be to say that the best part of Koepka’s game isn’t his driver, it’s his mind, but it’s true. It really is. When the pressure is at its highest, he’s at his best. Stone cold. Locked in. He went out and played yesterday like he was losing, even when he was winning. He even tapped in quickly and finished before playing partner Adam Scott on 18 and had next to no reaction at all. Like he expected it. Because he did. And you should.

And you should also expect that he’s going to notice all the run that Tiger gets coming out of this. He was respectful of Tiger yesterday and hyped him, but don’t get it twisted – Koepka will notice it. And somehow, he’ll not only come out of yesterday with a massive trophy, but an even bigger chip on his shoulder. Think about that: a guy who’s won three majors in 14 months and is more motivated than ever. Look the hell out. Tiger was the better story, but Koepka is the better player. And everyone else out there is now looking up at this dude.  Because he’s a monster.