Injury layoff stokes US Open champ Koepka's love of golf

by Jim SLATER
Brooks Koepka had left wrist surgery in late 2018, causing him to miss the first fourth months of the year, including the Masters

A four-month injury layoff revived Brooks Koepka's love of golf and not even back-to-back US Open titles can satisfy his desire to win more, starting with this week's PGA Championship.

Left wrist surgery in late 2017 caused the 28-year-old American to miss the first four months of the year, including the Masters.

"When you take four months off, you really appreciate it, and you're eager to get back out here," Koepka said Tuesday. "Any time you can tee it up, especially only doing three majors, it makes every one a little bit more important. I kind of fell back in love with the game a little bit."

Even though he won his first major title last year at Erin Hills, Koepka said he felt alone and forgotten.

"It can get a little bit lonely when you're just sitting on the couch," Koepka said. "I couldn't do anything, couldn't exercise. Only three guys texted me and I think it was Bubba (Watson), Phil (Mickelson) and I saw D.J. (top-ranked Dustin Johnson) quite a bit, but it just feels like you're forgotten about quite a bit.

"You miss being in competition, you miss being in the hunt, trying to win. You feel like part of your life has just been put on hold for awhile. It's not fun. I went through a little bit of a phase where I really didn't want to do anything for a while.

"And then to finally come back, that excitement level, to be hitting balls again, there was nobody more excited, still nobody more excited, to be playing than me."

World number four Koepka, the first US Open back-to-back winner since Curtis Strange in 1988-89, isn't satisfied with his major total just yet.

"You want to keep adding to the list and keep progressing. I think that's the big key," he said. "As long as every tournament, every year, you're getting better and better, that's all that matters. I've done a good job of that so far and just need to continue that. And the goal now is just to get to number one and just keep winning majors, keep winning golf tournaments, be more consistent."

- Haters are motivators -

A year that began with Koepka fearing he might never play again could offer more glory to come with one last major title and the season playoffs to come.

"Winning two majors in one year, I think that would be pretty special," he said. "With the way the year started and how it looked, it has been pretty incredible, going to thinking that I might not ever play again, might not be able to even play the same way, to winning a major and hopefully having a chance here."

Koepka has also taken extra motivation from naysayers, the people who said he could never make a career in golf or called his first US Open title a fluke until he backed up his win last year at Erin Hills this year at Shinnecock.

"You always feel like you've got something to prove, whether it be to yourself or somebody else," Koepka said. "I can think of plenty of people along the way telling me I'll be nothing, working at McDonald's, things like that. The whole time, you're just trying to prove them wrong. Sometimes your haters, I guess, are your biggest motivators."

Brooks Koepka had left wrist surgery in late 2018, causing him to miss the first fourth months of the year, including the Masters