Brooks Koepka is looking for his third consecutive win at the PGA Championship this week, which would cap an impressive stretch at major championships for him over the past two years.
This time around, however, the situation is vastly different.
Not only does this year’s event at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco mark the first major championship of the season — a result of the COVID-19 pandemic — but Koepka has been battling back from a persistent knee injury that hasn’t improved much at all.
While it’s been a long time coming, Koepka said on Tuesday that he feels his game is finally in a good place — something he proved to himself last week at the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
“My game feels like it’s in really, really good shape right now,” Koepka said. “I like the way I’m hitting it … Every day is a lot more comfortable. I’m excited. This is a big boy golf course. Have to hit the ball straight. Got to put it in the fairway. It’s going to play long. I think it kind of plays into my hands.”
‘I got frustrated. I think anybody would’
Koepka underwent a stem cell treatment to repair a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee right after the Tour Championship last season, though he re-tore the tendon a few months later in October after slipping on wet concrete at The CJ Cup in South Korea.
He has tried to play through it since play resumed, though has complained about his knee several times. At one point last month, he even said that nothing had improved at all since October. Koepka has long been against sitting out of the season or undergoing treatment now, however, rather opting to attempt to make a late season push.
“I got frustrated. I think anybody would,” Koepka said. “Nobody likes playing bad. But at the same time, I knew it was only a couple swings away.”
That push finally seemed to come to fruition last week in TPC Southwind.
After a pair of missed cuts and two finishes outside the top-30 since play resumed in June, Koepka was in position to win throughout the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and finished in a tie for second — his best finish of the year. His performance jumped him 59 spots in the FedExCup standings, too, more than enough to get him in the field for the first FedExCup Playoffs event.
“Just to be in contention I thought was nice … I feel great,” he said. “I think it was more about getting in contention again and just having those feelings back, which felt good.”
With that under his belt, Koepka finally feels like he’s peaking at just about the right time.
“I felt like I was playing a little bit better, wasn’t seeing the results, but piece by piece it was coming,” Koepka said. “I knew it was eventually going to be there. As far as confidence, I got frustrated. I think anybody would. Nobody likes playing bad.
“But at the same time, I knew it was only a couple swings away. Once I got the feeling, I’d be off and running, and here we are.”
‘I don’t put any expectations on myself’
Koepka will tee off with Shane Lowry and Gary Woodland for the first two rounds this week. Though he may not like to admit it, a win for him in San Francisco would be historic.
It’s been 64 years since someone has won a major championship three years in a row — and only Walter Hagan has done so at the PGA Championship. Koepka nearly pulled off the feat at the U.S. Open last year, too, but finished just behind Woodland in second at Pebble Beach.
That experience, he said, has relieved any worry of winning three in a row.
And after the year he’s had, Koepka said he isn’t stressed headed into Thursday’s opening round.
“I don’t put any expectations on myself, just go out and go play golf exactly like I know how,” he said. “If I do that, then yeah, I probably should win.”
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