Different Brooks Koepka takes his shot at Augusta
The last time Brooks Koepka played in the Masters Tournament, he had achieved the modest totals of one victory each on the PGA and European PGA tours.
Since the 2017 event, when he shot 71-69 on the weekend to jump from 19th to a tie for 11th, Koepka has established his name among the top worldwide stars with three major championships: back-to-back U.S. Opens at Erin Hills and Shinnecock and the 2018 PGA at Bellerive.
Photos: Tuesday Masters Practice Round
He added a victory in the CJ Cup in Korea last fall and enters this week fourth on the Official World Golf Ranking.
How different will he feel on the first tee Thursday as opposed to his previous Masters?
“I’ve got three trophies that I haven’t had any time I’ve teed it up (at Augusta National),” he said Tuesday. “I’ve never been a major champion when I played here … completely different player, probably, understand how to handle pressure a lot better. And really kind of matured off the golf course, I think is a big deal.”
Koepka missed last year’s Masters because of a wrist injury that kept him off the tour for more than three months. He returned for The Players Championship and signaled better things to come when he matched the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course record with 63 in the final round – including an albatross at the par-5 16th hole.
A tie for 11th in The Players kicked off a torrid summer. He finished second to Justin Rose at Colonial, became the first repeat U.S. Open champion since Curtis Strange in 1988-89, finished fifth in the World Golf Championship event at Firestone and held off Tiger Woods to win the PGA by two shots.
Koepka was voted the PGA Tour player of the year by his peers, no small feat when you consider he didn’t play for 15 weeks.
“Any time you’re on the couch and you’re watching guys you know you should be competing with, it’s never fun,” he said.
However, he has often pointed out that the time off was “a blessing in disguise” and helped rekindle his passion for golf.
“I think that was something I needed,” he said. “To really kind of find my love for the game again. To sit down and watch … and really realize how much I do miss this game, and then to come back and have the year I had was impressive because I don’t think anybody saw that one coming.”
Kopeka has struggled a bit in recent weeks, missing the cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, tying for 56th at The Players and failing to win a match in pool play in the WGC-Match Play Championship.
He attributed part of his struggles to a diet that restricted him to 1,800 calories a day.
“The diet I was on was probably not the best,” he said. “I wanted to try and lose some weight and maybe went about it a little too aggressively for just a long period of time and the intensity of what I was doing.”
But he’s hungry in a different way now.
“I like where my game is trending,” he said.