Brooks Koepka details recovery from knee injury while gearing up for return in Abu Dhabi

After withdrawing from the CJ Cup last fall and missing a Presidents Cup he qualified for in December, Brooks Koepka said on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi that he's fully recovered from the left knee injury that knocked him out for a few months, and that he's locked and loaded for 2020.

The No. 1 player in the world actually labored through most of last season with the injury, despite winning three times, including his second major at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in May.

"I've had problems with it since March," he said in front of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. "Dealt with it the whole year ... I had stem cell done on my knee and it felt fine all the way through Vegas, all the way to Korea. Everything felt good. And then in Korea, just slipped and, you know, re-tore it and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad, which, that's excruciating. It's a lot of pain. It's not fun. We flew back, I think Saturday. I got in Saturday night and I started rehab on Monday."

The stem cell work Koepka had done took place after the Tour Championship in August. The CJ Cup in Korea was in October.

"Still doing a lot of rehab," he added. "Been trying to make sure everything feels right, and it does not feel like my right knee, I'll be honest with you. It doesn't feel the same as my right. It probably won't for a while. But it does feel stable, which leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month and a half ago, it just doesn't feel stable. It felt like it could go either way. It could go left, out, back, it could go any way."

That's a big yikes from me. Kneecaps going "any way" is not what I want when my swing speed is 130 miles per hour. And while it sounds disconcerting that the knee isn't really 100 percent, it also sounds like he was playing at less than full strength in 2019 -- and playing pretty well regardless.

"I don't think anybody's ever operating at 100 percent," he said. "I think that's a rarity in sports. ... everybody's dinged up a little bit. Nobody wants to hear an excuse. I'm not going to come out and tell you I've got the sniffles or tell you my knee hurts. Just get on with it and go play. I mean, I won with it, so I don't see any issue with it."

Spoken like the true athlete Koepka purports himself to be.

So what's in store for 2020 with Koepka? Can he grab major No. 5? Can he maintain his top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings? I feel mildly pessimistic about this year for him, but that has less to do with him and more to do with how well the guys around him (Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm) are playing right now. Koepka is dangerous, though, especially if he's moving toward a more healthy self instead of away from it.

"I'm just excited to hit balls," he said. "When I started hitting, it's the same thing. It's exciting and it's enthusiasm to get out there and go play. It's been, last year, there wasn't much practice. I just couldn't do it with my knee. I think everybody saw it on my team towards the end of the year. I couldn't get on my left side. I couldn't do things. Couldn't squat down in a bunker. I struggled to get down and read a putt. You know, thankfully that's in the past now."

If it truly is in the past, that should provoke some fear in the golf world that the best player on the planet (at least by the rankings) could potentially get even better than he was a year ago when he finished in the top four in all four major championships.

Koepka is grouped with Tommy Fleetwood and Shane Lowry for the first two rounds in Abu Dhabi. They will tee off at 10:40 p.m Eastern on Wednesday night.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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