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Posted March 31, 2019 01:03 pm
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Brooks Koepka's focus, discipline took him to third major victory

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    Brooks Koepka has picked up all three of his major victories since his last Masters Tournament appearance. A wrist injury kept him out of Augusta last year. [ALLEN EYESTONE/The Palm Beach Post]

If there was any doubt that Brooks Koepka was a major player in the world of professional golf, he dispelled that last year by winning two of the three majors he played, giving him three for his career.

The only other American professionals with three majors by age 28 are Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods and Jordan Spieth.

Koepka turned 28 last May.

After winning his second consecutive U.S. Open in June, he tied for 39th in the British Open, then won the season’s final major, the PGA Championship.

He missed the first major of the season, the Masters Tournament, with a wrist injury.

Less than two months after winning the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, Koepka won the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis by two shots over four-time Masters champ Tiger Woods, who was seeking his first major championship victory since the 2008 U.S. Open.

Bellerive was a birdie-fest compared to Shinnecock Hills, where Koepka finished at 1-over 281. Koepka had 14 birdies at the U.S. Open. He had 22 at the PGA and finished 16-under, shooting in the 60s in every round – 69-63-66-66.

He needed those birdies to outlast Woods, who closed with 64, thanks to a back-nine 32. Koepka was up to the task, shooting 33 on the back nine, with clutch birdies on Nos. 15 and 16.

“Obviously it was kind of the first time Tiger’s been in contention and I’ve been in contention at the same time, so the fans definitely let you know what he was doing,” Koepka said. “And I was playing with (Adam Scott), so I knew what I was up against. And Scotty played unbelievably well and so did Tiger. They definitely made me question it there for a bit or think about it, for sure.”

Counting his 2017 U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills, Koepka has won three of the past six majors he’s played.

“I don’t want to say maybe I’m a different person when I show up to the majors, but I’m very focused, very disciplined,” he said. “I’m in the house. My agent, my coach and the chef from the Floridian, he’s there, he’s cooking for us. Everyone’s much more on the same routine. Everybody knows what to expect, what to do.”

The question arises as to why Koepka, who is now in his sixth year on the PGA Tour, has three majors and only two other Tour victories in more than 110 starts.

“I think sometimes I expect too much out of myself in a regular tour event,” he said. “I know I should win it and I don’t give myself the opportunity to do it. A little lack of focus, trying too hard. But at the end of the day, my primary focus is on majors, as is everyone else out here.”

It’s not like Koepka doesn’t contend in non-majors. He has seven runner-up finishes on Tour.

“I mean, that just comes down to I finished second quite a lot, but no one remembers who finished second,” he said. “I’ve lost in a playoff. I feel like I’ve put myself in some good spots. Kind of gotten unlucky a little bit, I think. Guys have fired some numbers at me on Sunday. Sometimes you run into a buzz saw.”

To his way of thinking, a major can be less difficult to win than other events.

“I don’t want to say easier, but I feel it kind of is,” he said of majors. “You’ve got so many guys playing, a couple of them are mentally going to beat themselves up. ... Especially by Saturday, you can pretty much almost predict who is going to be there come Sunday. That’s what I love about going to a major. Half the guys, you’ve already beat them by the time you’ve stepped on the first tee.”

At the Tour Championship at the end of last season, when it was obvious he would be named the 2018 PGA Tour Player of the Year, he voiced his displeasure that he wasn’t getting the credit from the media he thought he deserved for his achievements.

“I think that kind of took on a life of its own. I think I was I upset for one week on something, and I think people kind of blew it out of proportion and made this whole thing against me against the media; me saying I don’t get enough attention,” he said. “I think it just blew up a little bit more than probably what I intended for it to do.

“I think my only thing that I was just saying was, you know, if it had been a couple other people, I think it would have been a bit different,” he said.