Brooks Koepka's PGA Championship win validates his return after injuries, struggles: 'I'm back'
Brooks Koepka fended off Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler to win his fifth major championship on Sunday afternoon at Oak Hill
There have been plenty of reasons to doubt Brooks Koepka in recent months and years. He has been injured, repeatedly. He left for LIV Golf and hasn’t played much outside of the new controversial circuit. He blew a shot at a green jacket last month, too.
On Sunday, Koepka put all of that to bed.
Koepka fended off Viktor Hovland and now top-ranked Scottie Scheffler at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York, to win his third PGA Championship. It marked his fifth major title in seven years, which matched legends like Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson, and brought him a win from tying Phil Mickelson.
“It feels damn good. Yeah, this one is definitely special,” Koepka said. “I think this one is probably the most meaningful of them all with everything that's gone on, all the crazy stuff over the last few years.”
In the immediate aftermath of leaving for LIV Golf last June, Koepka struggled to keep up. He missed the cut at the Masters and British Open last year, and finished in 55th at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open.
That also came just after a stretch where Koepka kept injuring his knee and even came close to considering retirement, something shown in great detail in “Full Swing” on Netflix earlier this year.
“I just think, I guess, [it] validates it for myself,” Koepka said of Sunday's victory. “I guess maybe if anybody doubted it from Augusta or whatever, any doubts anybody on TV might have or whatever, I'm back. I'm here.”
The win is undoubtedly impressive. Winning a major is no easy feat. But this win should have been Koekpa’s second in as many months. He entered the final round at Augusta National with a two-shot lead over Jon Rahm, and seemed poised to win his first Masters.
But Koepka stumbled late, ended up going 3-over in the round and losing by four strokes.
“I definitely wouldn't have, I don't think, won today if that didn't happen, right?” Koepka said. “Definitely take it and keep using it going forward for each event, each major, any time I'm in contention, but I'm not going to share. I can't give away all the secrets.”
Whatever he tweaked, it worked.
Koepka wasted very little time Sunday. He made three birdies in his first four holes, and then made four more on the back side to offset as many bogeys while keeping Hovland at an arm’s length as Scheffler's run came too late.
In fairness to Koepka, he's had success at LIV Golf recently. He won twice there and sits second in the overall player points rankings headed into next week’s tournament in Washington, D.C. But that’s about the only place that Koepka can play now, and it’s hard to find on TV. Just look at Dustin Johnson’s playoff win last week in Oklahoma that most couldn’t watch. It’s hard to judge how that game will translate over to the major championships, too.
And after all, Koepka is the first LIV Golf member to win a major since the league’s inception — though he’s not too focused on that bit.
“I definitely think it helps LIV, but I'm more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you,” he said.
Sunday’s win should eliminate any questions about whether Koepka, and even other big names on the Saudi Arabian-backed circuit, can still hold their own as that league develops. We’re halfway through the major championship calendar now, and Koepka has a trophy and a runner-up finish to his name.
After looking back on the past several months, it made the moment walking up from the 18th green Sunday that much more special.
“I think it was definitely what I accomplished [that made me so emotional],” he said. “Pardon my language, but it’s all the f***ing s**t I had to go through. No one knows. No one knows, I think, all the pain. There’s a lot of times where I just couldn’t even bend my knee. Yeah, it felt good. It felt really good.”
With the U.S. Open right around the corner next month in Los Angeles, and the way he has been playing on golf’s biggest stages, there’s no reason to doubt Koepka will be in the conversation again. A sixth major, at the very least, is coming soon.