Brooks Koepka at last has the world No 1 status his major form so plainly deserves. The American assumed the role with a victory in Sunday’s CJ Cup and declared it was “a dream come true”.
His eight-under 64 for a 21-under, four-shot success was an appropriately dominant way to scale the summit. In truth, however, the rankings merely caught up with what everyone had accepted – that Koepka is currently the best player on earth.
With back to back US Opens and his USPGA glory when staring down Tiger Woods two months ago, the 28-year-old had already established himself as the new world power, although it clearly felt wonderful for a man not prone to revealing too many of his emotions.
“To be world No 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said on the 18th green of the Nine Bridges Club on Jeju Island. “I don't think this one's going to sink in.”
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 21, 2018
So Koepka assumes the mantle from Dustin Johnson – and, yes, there is more than a little irony in that scenario after the close friends had their contretemps in the Europe teamroom following last month’s Ryder Cup - and the manner of this latest triumph suggests he could hold it for some time.
Rather remarkably, considering his hat-trick of the game’s biggest titles, this was only Koepka’s fifth PGA Tour title. Going out in the company of Ian Poulter – the Englishman who fell away to finish in a tie for 10th with a 71 – Koepka held a two-shot lead, yet had to fend off his inspired countryman Gary Woodland, who made 10 birdies in his first 16 holes to pull level.
Koepka barely blinked, holing his chip from 70 yards on the 16th before eagling the last for a back-nine 29. It was nerveless and seemingly effortless and Woodland spoke for the vast majority of onlookers when saying: “You know, Brooks doesn’t appear to care that much.”
Koepka actually let out a yawn on the final green, but, be sure, the burning ambition is there. “For me, I just need to keep winning,” he said.
“I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding majors. I feel like my game's set up for that. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where, it's incredible, every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again.”
Koepka is the third player this year to reach No 1 for the first time, joining Justin Thomas and England’s Justin Rose. The last time that happened was in 1997, when Ernie Els, Tom Lehman and Tiger Woods each rose to the top position.