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PGA Championship 2021: Brooks Koepka plays on, though doctors say he's six months from full recovery

May 18, 2021

Brooks Koepka plays a shot during a practice round prior to the 2021 PGA Championship.

Patrick Smith

When Brooks Koepka says that he will do anything to be competing again, as he did Tuesday at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, he is walking the walk … er, well, as best he can anyway.

Koepka is preparing for this week’s 102nd PGA Championship at less than 100 percent—and he’s not even close to 100 percent, he let on during a brief press conference. The two-time PGA winner is still in rehab and recovering from surgery on his right knee March 16 to repair a dislocated kneecap and ligament damage.

“Yeah, we’re probably talking another six months,” Koepka, 30, said when asked about the timeline his doctor established for full recovery.

His timeline is, um, different. “Ahead of that. If I beat that, I'm doing something good,” he said. “I mean, I can play. You're never 100 percent, that's the thing. For two straight years it's been left knee, right knee, herniated a disc in my neck, played in Tampa or wherever we were, played through that. I dealt with that all the way through Palm Springs.”

What did Patrick Swayze say in the film “Road House”? “Pain don’t hurt?” That’s Koepka.

“I can deal with the pain. That's not an issue,” he said. “It's just a matter of being able to hit shots that I want to hit and do things I want to do, and I'm starting to be able to do that. Even though I'm not 100 percent, I can still hit the shots.”

A winner earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Koepka attempted to compete in the Masters just a few weeks after surgery but missed the cut. His movements were restricted, and he couldn’t swing with his usual authority. He also played last week in the AT&T Byron Nelson, also failing to reach the weekend.

This week, on the windswept Ocean Course in South Carolina, he’ll attempt to win his fifth major—he has two U.S. Open titles to go with consecutive PGA wins in 2018 and ’19—with his firepower still compromised but without excuses.

“I feel like I can hit every shot,” he insisted. “It's not like Augusta where I'm trying to figure out what's the best line to walk instead of figuring out … now I can actually hit golf shots and understand what's going on. For a while it was just, I neglected putting just to see if I could hit shots, because if I can't hit shots I can't play. No point in that. No, I got everything under control and know what I'm doing. Last week was a good test just to see where I'm at for two days.

“No, [the Masters] didn't set me back. I was fine,” he added. “Just for my own satisfaction, I wanted to play. I was determined to do it. That was the goal all along. I was able to do it. Obviously, I didn't play the way I wanted to. It's not fun when you can't do the thing you know you're capable of, but just to be out there, it was mentally satisfying just to—nobody knows what I went through for those four weeks, three and a half, whatever, four weeks. Every time I was doing something, I just envisioned myself playing at Augusta.”

And now the PGA is upcoming. It’s a major. He can handle the pain.