It didn’t take Brooks Koepka long to become a major player in professional golf.
The former Florida State All-American, who has been on the PGA Tour since 2014, has three top-five finishes and a top-10 finish in his past 10 major championship starts.
“Majors are really tough,” Koepka said. “You can’t make any mistakes. You’ve got to be mentally focused and your game has got to be sharp if you want to play well. You’ve just got to grind it out. I think the majors are more heart than anything. If you’ve got the heart you can do it.”
Koepka has one PGA Tour victory - the 2015 Phoenix Open.
“I enjoy the challenge every time we play,” he said. “I think it’s fun to play no matter what week it is. The majors are always a little bit of something extra.”
None of Koepka’s top-10 major finishes have come in the Masters, which is puzzling because he is one of the longer hitters on the tour. He tied for 33rd in 2015 and tied for 21st in 2016 at the 7,435 yard-Augusta National Golf Club.
“The more rounds you play there the better off you’ll be,” he said of Augusta National. “It’s pretty simple: you just keep it below the hole and try to have uphill putts all the time. Just some quirky little things like a couple breaks. Some putts don’t break as much. The more you play it, the better off you are.”
The Masters is falling at a time when Koepka is riding a high. It’s the first major since his Ryder Cup debut in late September-early October where he posted a 3-1 record in the United States’ blowout victory over Europe. In the final day’s singles matches, he took down Masters champion Danny Willett, of England, 5 and 4.
“Anytime you play a Ryder Cup, play under pressure, you build confidence, you breed confidence,” Koepka said. “It’s like another win. You are confident, I think, anywhere you walk if you play in the Ryder Cup.”
Koepka missed one major in 2016 – the British Open after he “rolled” his right ankle and had to withdraw from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in early July. He returned in late July at the PGA Championship wearing a brace and still tied for fourth place. He followed that with a tie for ninth at the Travelers.
“It’s fine now,” he said at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in mid-March. “I still do rehab on it all the time just to make sure everything is good.”
Koepka is disappointed he has only one victory in his three-plus years on the PGA Tour.
His goal this year is “to win multiple times and then win a major. I mean that’s the goal. I think that’s been the goal for the last year. Obviously last year I didn’t really achieve it. I felt like I underachieved, and that was kind of the big thing. Kind of had to sit down with myself on the flight from China and reassess things and put some things in the right spot, change some things, and I feel like I’m starting to do that.”
The “flight from China” was from the HSBC Champions in late October, where he tied for 40th. He immediately saw results, finishing second in his next start in Las Vegas.