ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Once Brooks Koepka started winning major championships in 2017, he also started offering the formula for winning major championships, famously stating that he really only needed to beat 20-30 players in a 156-golfer field.
Koepka hasn't won a major since he ripped off four in eight tries from 2017-19, but he said this week at thethat his formula has not changed.
"I still think it is [just a few guys you have to beat], yeah," said Koepka while holding court at Oak Hill Country Club. "I still think there's a lot of good players, and they should think the exact same thing. You should have a lot of confidence. When you look at the major leaderboards over the last ... five, six years, I mean, it's pretty repetitive on the guys who are at the top."
Koepka beat them all except for one at the first major of the year at Augusta National. His 280 total was good for T2 at the Masters, his first top 10 at a major in his last five tries. It seemingly came out of nowhere following his exit to LIV Golf last summer and an ignominious record at the 2022 majors where he went without a single top-50 finish.
Yes, it perfectly fit the profile of a golfer who won four of his first 25 major starts and posted 16 (!) top 10s over his last 30 major appearances. It is not abnormal for a major winner of this caliber -- truly a generational trophy collector at the biggest events -- to play solid golf at the Masters.
However, this was purportedly not the same Koepka. The rumors were that he went to LIV because of a bad knee that scared him in terms of his financial future. he was also perhaps the first golfer in history whose existential crisis appeared on a reality television show.
If you look at everything on paper, perhaps it was surprising that it was surprising that he finished T2 at Augusta. That didn't change the fact that it was, indeed, surprising.
Oak Hill sets up beautifully for Koepka, and the glimmer of hope that he disclosed at Augusta just a month ago flickers ahead of this PGA. This course, he said, represents a mixture of a PGA and a U.S. Open, and buddy, Brooks Koepka has slain at PGAs and U.S. Opens.
In his last 10 appearances at these two events, Koepka has six first- or second-place finishes. Six!
"I like the golf course," he said. "It's good. I like the older style golf courses. It's very, very tough with the rough. It's kind of a mixture of a PGA and U.S. Open. You miss greens out here, you're going to make a lot of bogeys. You miss fairways, you're going to be making quite a few bogeys if you're out of position. You have to hit fairways. The golf course can be tough, especially if this wind blows."
Koepka has made plenty of money and garnered plenty of fame on tough golf courses when the wind blows.
Forget the physical health. That was such a talking point at the Masters, but it's mostly served as a diversion. Koepka said Wednesday that he's 100% healthy, but even on a bum knee, he nearly won the 2021 PGA. More importantly, he seems to be in a much better headspace than he was a year ago.
Still, some level of doubt lingers. Koepka hasn't been the same closer he was in from 2017-19. Old Brooks would have slammed the door on the 2020 PGA, 2021 PGA or 2023 Masters -- all tournament he was vying to win late but failed to capture. (Koepka said Wednesday he stayed up all night after this year's Masters thinking about where it all went wrong.)
Plus, it's hard to shake how dark it was for him a year ago. Does that mean the Masters was a one-off, or is Koepka seriously back and -- following the surgeries, rehab and mental struggles -- ready for a version No. 2 of his major championship career that closely resembles version No. 1?
This major could be telling for how the next few years are going to go for him. Koepka has endured a fallow 2022 major season, an exit from the PGA Tour and several empty closing kicks when he was in contention at the majors.
It's now fair to wonder whether the player who has openly stated that only a handful of players can win majors -- because even among the ones who play well, "the pressure is going to get to [some of] them" -- is still in the group of major players where he believes he belongs.