Brooks Koepka failed to find the funny side of fans marching down the 18th fairway at Kiawah Island after claiming his injured knee got dinged up a few times as he made his way to the final green.
Phil Mickelson’s army of spectators rallied behind the 50-year old on route to an historic sixth Major win leaving Koepka to get caught up in the action, playing second fiddle to the star attraction just like he had when Tiger Woods captured a comeback Major at the 2019 Masters.
“It would have been cool if I didn’t have a knee injury and got dinged a few times in the knee in that crowd because no one really gave a s***, personally,” Koepka said. “But if I was fine, yeah, it would have been cool. Yeah, it’s cool for Phil. But getting dinged a few times isn’t exactly my idea of fun.”
Trailing Mickelson by two strokes playing the 72nd, Koepka found the 18th in regulation but any hopes of a two-shot swing were stifled when Mickelson did the same. It meant the real drama down the last was the pair trying to negotiate the raucous crowd scuttling for the best vantage point with Koepka convinced some fans took it a step too far.
“[I was just] trying to protect my knee. I don’t think anybody really understands until you actually you’re coming out of surgery how — I mean, even when I was doing rehab and there’s five people kind of standing by your knee, you get a little skittish.
“Like I don’t mind waiting or being in that crowd but getting my — I don’t know, it felt like somebody tried to, I don’t know what the deal was, but it’s what it is. Be putting it in ice today. It feels like s*** right now.”
It led one journalist to ask if the four-time Major felt his knee had been purposely targeted by a supporter on 18.
“I don’t know, it got bumped a few times. Somebody jammed Ricky, Ricky stopped unintentionally because he got drilled in the face, and then I got drilled in the bag because he got stopped so quickly. But I don’t know what someone tried to or what, I don’t know what the deal was. There were so many people around,” Koepka said.
Whatever about the antics on 18, the winning and losing of the tournament happened long before that with Koepka playing a largely bit-part role on the final day on the Ocean Course despite leading the tournament after the first hole on Sunday.
The bookies’ favourite before a ball was hit in the final round, it looked for all the world that Major number five was about to be added to Koepka’s collection until a double-bogey out of nowhere on the par-5 second raised question marks. In truth, Koepka never looked comfortable after that, missing a short par putt on the seventh before dropping three shots in four holes from the tenth. The killer inside Koepka hadn’t shown up at Kiawah. Could the man himself figure out why?
“Just how bad I putted the last two days. Three days, actually. It felt like tap-ins I was missing. Never felt comfortable, and you’re not going to win if you do that,” Koepka said.
“The thing was, Phil played great. That whole stretch when we turned after 4 and 5 and played those holes, it’s into off the left for me and that’s quite difficult for a right-handed player. And it suited Phil right down to the ground, and I thought he played that entire stretch from about 6 to 13 so well. So you know, I’m happy for him, Amy and Tim. It’s pretty cool to see, and you know, but a bit disappointed in myself.”