With all due respect, Brooks Koepka would beg to differ.
It is generally accepted in the world of golf that the four majors — the. Masters, the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open and the Open Champioship — are the most difficult events to win for two principal reasons: because as the most important tournaments, they create the greatest pressure on the golfers, and because they have the strongest fields.
Not so, says Koepka. They’re the easiest to win. And he had the proof at hand. In fact, he’d lived it. He won the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018, the first to hold back-to-back Opens since Curtis Strange in 1988-89, and he won the 2018 PGA Championship — three majors in two calendar years. He was, at the moment, honing his game for a fourth in this particular week in May 2019.
Koepka had offered his revolutionary view in his news conference with the media on Tuesday at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Bethpage would be a suitable site for testing his thesis. Bethpage is the very demanding public course — most classify it as a monster — on Long Island, New York, which had already held two majors, the U.S. Open in 2002 and 2009.
He offered his calculations. He wrote off half of the 156 starters immediately.
“You figure at least 80 of them, I’m just going to beat,” he said. “From there, you figure about half of them won’t play well from there, so you’re down to about 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.”
As he did in the 2018 PGA at Bellerive. He had pretty much passed the rest of the field. The only guys he had to beat were — well — just Tiger Woods and Adam Scott.
“You don’t have to try to go win it,” Koepka said. “Just hang around. If you hang around, good things are going to happen.” He said he had hurt himself in PGA Tour events by not recognizing this fact. He would press too hard to build a cushion and got ahead of himself. “In the majors,” he said, “I just stay in the moment. I never think one hole ahead. I’m not thinking about tomorrow. I’m not thinking about the next shot. I’m just thinking about what I’ve got to do right then and there. And I kind of dummy it down and make it very simple, and I think that’s what helps me.”
Koepka came to the 2019 PGA and Bethpage with more than an interesting piece of logic and a deep breath. He’s noted for his blunt talk, but it was clear that his theory on playing majors was not a prediction, merely a statement of intent. Much like the one he’d made on the eve of the 2018 U.S. Open. He was defending his title — someone would have to take it away from him. The same as he was feeling at Bethpage, on the eve of the 2019 PGA.
“Yeah, I mean, I have the trophy,” Koepka said. “Someone has got to…” He left that one hanging. “The last time we played this championship, I won,” he said. “I feel like I like my chances this week. I feel like I’m playing good. You know, if I do what I’m supposed to do, then yeah, I think I’d be tough to beat. But you never know what’s going to happen. You’ve got to go out and play four good days. So we’ll see when the gun goes off on Thursday.”