I think Ronnie O’Sullivan said it best when he tweeted, “It’s impossible to not love Bruce Koepka”.
I know I spent my weekend trying my utmost to dislike the man who robbed me of the year’s second Major, imagining a prom king turned frat boy shot-gunning a beer amongst his adoring Delta Chi brotherhood before whisking the head cheerleader off her feet to raucous chants of ‘Bruce, Bruce, Bruce’, but to no avail. Koepka’s outrageously confident, chiselled like a golden god and he plays golf both quickly and aggressively; what’s not to love about the PGA Champion?
“I don’t see why you can’t get to double digits,” said a confident Koepka pre-tournament when asked how many Majors he might win in his career.
“156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I’m just going to beat. From there, about half of them won’t play well, so you’re down to maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just, pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you’ve just got to beat those guys.”
I mean, if Rory McIlroy came out with this before a Major, he’d be crucified for opening his mouth and applying such unnecessary pressure to an already daunting task. But Koepka is unlike any other player on Tour right now in that the higher the stakes, the better he plays.
I sat down for 25 minutes before penning this piece analysing every word and mannerism from his post-win press conference trying to find something, but he’s just unflinching. When he went on that run from 11 to 14, carding four bogeys in a row as DJ closed to within one, most golfers would have wilted like a Rich Tea biscuit in a cup of hot water. Koepka asked to be dunked again.
If Koepka was a biscuit, comedian Peter Kay would describe him as a Hobnob; so hardy and resolute that by the time you’ve finished dunking him, he’s soaked up half your brew.
There’s no doubt Koepka was wounded, seemingly in free-fall and the frenzied fans were baying for blood. Their cries of ‘DJ, DJ, DJ’ as Brooks walked off the 14th green should have been enough for the suffering gladiator to fall victim of the teetering thumb. For Koepka, their cries only helped sharpen his focus. He cited Michael Jordon among the athletes he admired most post-round as someone who always played with a chip on his shoulder and it was thanks to the brash, boozed-up New Yorkers in the gallery that Koepka morphed into Hulk mode.
The drive down 15 was the winning of the golf tournament. To that point on Sunday, Koepka hadn’t shied away from his aggressive nature but he hadn’t found fairways either. With DJ running into trouble ahead, Koepka cannoned his drive to a target less than half the field had found all day and made his first par since the ninth, steadying the ship before docking it safely three holes later to become a four-time Major champion and the new world number one.
When asked what’s the most disrespected he’s ever felt as an athlete post-round, Koepka replied; “Telling me I wasn’t tough,” in relation to Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee’s publicity stunt when claiming Koepka couldn’t compete with the likes of Tiger and McIlroy in the toughness department. “That pissed me off. That really pissed me off.”
Maybe it was the thoughts of bumping into Koepka on the 19th some time in the future that made Chamblee come out with this after Koepka’s incredible Black Course performance.
“To win wire–to–wire is such a mental accomplishment,” Chamblee said. “You’re trying to match yourself to the pressures every single day, trying to keep those at bay. He’s handled it mentally, he handled it physically, he handled it technically. He’s made a believer out of me.”
Unlike Chamblee, I didn’t need to see Koepka’s hands to know he was hard as nails. The scary thing is that Brooks is only getting started.