Masters: Brooks Koepka is competing with golf's legends, not its current stars

Koepka has left no doubt about his mindset: His goal is to catch and pass the game's best ever.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Brooks Koepka has the slightly rumpled look you’d expect of a father of a 9-month-old, hair slightly tousled, eyes a little weary. But it takes exactly one question to remind you why Koepka is the most dangerous major player in golf.

Koepka has five majors, which ties him with legends like Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson, and the most of any active player not named Tiger or Phil. Asked how important that stat is to him, Koepka at first shrugged it off.

“During the moment,” he said, “it's about going to play golf.”

Then he delivered a sly kicker:

“But there's 19 other people in front of me, I do know that.”

Brooks Koepka is looking to win his first Masters. (Warren Little/Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka is looking to win his first Masters. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Ignore the golf-nerd stat that there are actually only 14 players ahead of Koepka. There are 19 tied or ahead of him, and those are now his targets — not Scottie Scheffer (one major), Jon Rahm (two majors) or Rory McIlroy (four majors). His reply to his thoughts on seeing green jackets around Augusta National is simple: “I want one.”

Everything in his professional life — tournaments, practices, media, sponsor obligations — exists in the shadow of his burning need to win majors. He plays on the LIV Golf tour, but he doesn’t really seem like a LIV golfer, even though he’s a captain of a team. Unlike, say, Bryson DeChambeau or Phil Mickelson, he doesn’t expound on golf’s infinite possibilities to elevate the human spirit, or whatever. Koepka’s here to win majors, and everything else is prelude.

“Been going since December getting ready for this,” Koepka said. “So, yeah, excited to see where I'll be at this week.”

If the recent past is any indication, he’ll be close to the top. Back in 2019, he was in the midst of a remarkable streak in which he finished no worse than T2 in five of six majors. One of those T2s came at Augusta, when he couldn’t quite close on Tiger Woods. Four years later, he let a two-stroke Sunday morning lead to Rahm disappear.

“Each year you learn a little bit more,” he said, “and try to progress every year.” And for the rest of the field at Augusta National, that concept is more terrifying than a downhill putt to make the cut.