Five statistics that help contextualize Brooks Koepka's brilliant run of dominance at majors
The king is going nowhere, but look at where he's been
Brooks Koepka did not win the 2019 U.S. Open in his bid for three straight at the toughest of them all. It doesn't matter.as much in defeat as he ever did in victory.
At some point it becomes difficult to contextualize the historical relevancy of what Koepka is doing. The reason it's difficult is because, unlike Tiger Woods, whose meteoric rise was also a linear rise, Koepka has seemingly come from nowhere. He has arrived out of thin air as the preeminent force in a sport once thought to be rife with parity.
We don't know what to do with this kind of sudden dominance. When Tiger was trucking like this, we felt confident we were watching one of the all-time greats. We could see it coming from miles away, and it was much easier to wrap our arms around. Not so with Koepka. And yet, he is playing the most dominant, best golf anyone has played since Woods in any of his mid-2000s stretches.
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Consider the following numbers.
- In the last four majors, Koepka is 46 under par. Of the other 20 golfers who have made the cut at all four, Gary Woodland is the closest to him at ... 25 under.
- In the last six majors, Koepka is 43 under par. Of the other 10 golfers who have made the cut at all six, Xander Schauffele is the closest to him at ... 20 under. Webb Simpson and Francesco Molinari are next at 12 under.
- In his last 11 majors dating back to the 2016 PGA Championship, Koepka has lost to 70 golfers (38 in the same event at the 2018 Open). He has defeated or tied 1,503 of 1,573 golfers (96%).
- He has finished in the top 10 in 10 of his last 15 majors.
- Since the beginning of 2015, he has finished worse than 21st just twice at majors.
These are not normal numbers! I don't know what kind of light I have to put them in to get you to understand how abnormal this is.
Sure, there have been other runs -- specifically Jordan Spieth in 2015 and Rory McIlroy in 2014 -- but not like this. In 2015, Spieth finished first, first, T4 and second at the majors. He lost to four golfers over the course of four majors. That was bookended by a MC at the 2014 PGA Championship though, and he only had one top 10 for the next two years until winning the 2017 Open.
McIlroy's trek was a little better. He won the last two majors of 2014 and finished top 10 at two of three before that as well as the next two after that in 2015. But then he missed two cuts in 2016. Koepka hasn't missed a cut at a major in six years.
It's debatable, but these are probably the best five-year stretches for any post-Tiger golfers. And Koepka's has pretty clearly been the best of them all. I should note that McIlroy's 10-year run of four majors and 18 top 10s has been unbelievable, too, but Koepka has four more years to get one more win and six top 10s to pass him in both categories.
Other golfers are taking notice of the numbers he's racking up, too.
"I told him when I got done he needs to slow down a little bit," joked Gary Woodland after he somehow held Koepka off at Pebble Beach for his first major championship.
What Koepka has seemingly tapped into is this ability to not even notice the pressure. This is his superpower, especially when combined with the perfect tools for this modern game. It's something he's talked about a lot over the years -- heck, he said it this week at the Travelers Championship -- but when it comes from other players, you started to understand its weight.
"Seeing Brooks Koepka do it today, he was trying to three-peat, all the pressure on him," said U.S. Open Sunday playing partner Chez Reavie. "He's playing like he plays on Tuesday. I played with him Monday here, and he played exactly the same as Monday. There's zero difference no matter what the stage, no matter what the situation. It's something I'll take and try and use in the future."
"Even last week it doesn't matter [where I finish]," Koepka said. "I don't care where I finish. Last week it's about the process of how ... am I going to start it on line, finish it on line, and then make the putt?
"I know sometimes it doesn't happen. I can't control the result. I wouldn't tee it up if I didn't want to win. Not everything is results-based with me. It's about the process. I think that's why I'm able to play so well in the majors because I'm not worried about winning."
It's possible that this part-man, part-machine is just getting revved up. Not probable, but possible. I remain confused about what it all means, and we likely won't have that answer until we have the gift of time to look back on all of this.
But for now, if it appears that Brooks Koepka is dominating golf in a way we haven't seen since Tiger Woods did at the peak of his powers, it's because he is. Statistically, anecdotally and in reality. Brooks Koepka is the best golfer in the world, and we might be saying that for a long, long time.
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