Brooks Koepka's tough love, Dustin Johnson's miscalculation(s), and the tour pro who had the worst week at the PGA
Welcome to another edition of The Grind, where we suggest there being a sign on the first tee at every men’s major.
WARNING: Brooks Koepka is a highly skilled golfer.
That’s it. Seriously, this is getting out of hand. With a win at the 2019 PGA Championship, Koepka became the first golfer to simultaneously be the two-time defending champ in two different majors. He also joins Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, and Tiger Woods as the only golfers to ever win four times in an eight-major stretch. Quite a foursome. But here’s an overlooked fact from Koepka’s latest triumph: On May 10, 2017, Brooks had zero majors when he witnessed me make a “hole-in-one” on a replica of TPC Sawgrass’ 17th hole:
And on May 19th, 2019, he now has FOUR major titles. Coincidence? Yes. I think. But Brooks has improved his short game a lot since then, so maybe, maybe he was inspired that day. In any event, the guy has developed into a major monster.
Brooks Koepka: What else is there to say? Koepka continues to do biceps curls with golf’s record book by winning majors at a historical rate. And this time, he won wire-to-wire and even showed some serious emotion, first with a winning fist pump:
And then with a bigger exhale than when he maxes out on the bench press:
How many majors has he won again?
He now has many as Ernie Els in his entire career. Just one less than Phil Mickelson and only two behind Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo. And again, he’s accomplished this in less than two years. Incredible.
Jordan Spieth: I’ve been as hard as anyone on the young superstar, so it’s only fair I praise him after a great week. Spieth was never a serious threat to win, but he hung tough on the weekend to finish T-3—which was, incredibly, his first top-20 finish in his past 15 PGA Tour stroke-play starts. For someone who entered the week with the worst weekend scoring average on tour, it was an important step. And to do it at a setup that favored longer hitters made it even more impressive. Speaking of stats, Spieth led the field in strokes gained: putting while making nearly 400 feet of putts over four days. He may not be back in the winner’s circle, but arguably his biggest weapon is back in top form.
Harold Varner III: HV3 asked “What’s the worst that could happen?” ahead of his first final-group pairing at a major. He answered his own question by the fourth hole on Sunday when after a double bogey on the third hole, millions of people watched him searching for a lost ball in the woods on his way to another double that ended his (slim) chances of winning. In fact, Varner had a nightmarish day, but he kept that 80-watt smile throughout shooting an 81, even having a fun chat with a New York City policeman on the back nine:
Dustin Johnson’s consistency: DJ’s good wasn’t quite good enough again, but he is quietly putting together an impressive season. After being the only player in the field to break par all four days at Bethpage Black, a 70 remains his highest score in 16 rounds in the year’s four biggest stroke-play events.
Good tweet by me, right? Anyway, as you can see, that hasn’t resulted in a win since Mexico, but DJ remains (as he should) confident about the state of his golf game. He also maintained a great sense of humor when asked about completing the career Second-Place Slam:
It wasn’t quite Louis Oosthuizen lip-syncing after pulling off the feat, but still, well played.
Dustin Johnson’s math: After seeing a few majors slip through his grasp, DJ was given a chance by the golf gods to steal one at the PGA. Trailing by a stroke and in the fairway at Bethpage Black’s 16th hole, he figured a 5-iron was the club from 194 yards into the wind. He figured wrong. Johnson missed long and made the first of two consecutive bogeys that ended his chances. Then following his round, Johnson was asked who the best player in the world is and he replied, “I’m pretty sure I’m still ranked No. 1, so I’d pick myself.”
Um. . . who wants to tell him?
Michael Kim’s week: As if it wasn’t bad enough missing the cut at the PGA by a single shot on Friday, Kim took a different kind of shot to his courtesy car—and his ego—over the weekend:
Obviously, that wasn’t the same cop who was yucking it up with HV3 on Sunday. In any event, we hope Kim opted for the rental insurance.
CBS’ aerial tracer: I’m all for new innovations in golf coverage, so I appreciate CBS’ effort, but this thing didn’t seem to improve on the technology that already exists.
Yep. And it also didn’t seem quite ready for Saturday’s rollout:
To CBS’ credit, it pulled the plug on the experiment for Sunday’s final round. Sometimes less is more.
Bethpage Black hosting a Ryder Cup: Yes, as many golf writers—in particular, European golf writers—pointed out, the crowds at Bethpage got a bit boorish as the booze flowed over the weekend. So I’m a bit worried about a potential incident between the juiced up fans and, oh, I don’t know, Ian Poulter in 2024. More so, I’m dreading hearing about people worrying/complaining about these crowds for the next five years. Aside from that, if you’re rooting for “U-S-A! U-S-A!”, wouldn’t you also be worried that Bethpage Black doesn’t set up well for the American bombers? Then again, maybe not considering Brooks and DJ went 1-2. OK, let’s try this again: Wouldn’t you be worried about a lack of birdies that typically makes the event so exciting? Of course, it’s not going anywhere and the PGA won’t be limiting beer sales, so this is all moot. See you in five years, Bethpage Black.
The PGA Tour heads to Texas for the Fort Worth Invitational Charles Schwab Challenge, AKA The Colonial. The tournament’s name has changed a bunch through the years, but thanks to Charles Schwab, it will remain at Colonial Country Club for the foreseeable future. Let’s call it a reverse bailout.
Random tournament fact: Apparently, this week is a better time than ever to have famous golf fathers. . .
Forget bailouts, that’s quite a handout. I’m sure the alternates who don’t get into the field will be thrilled to learn about this.
RANDOM PROP BETS OF THE WEEK
— The crowds at Colonial will be rowdier than at Bethpage Black: 1 MILLION-to-1 odds
— Brooks Koepka will win the U.S. Open next month: 6-to-1 odds (Actual odds, he’s the favorite)
— Brooks Koepka thinks his odds of winning are better than that: LOCK
PHOTO(S) OF THE WEEK
Props to Golf Digest’s Christopher Powers for being on the John Daly beat on Friday and getting a couple gems like this one of JD interacting with the crowd (except for the guy double-fisting beers while looking the other way):
And a look inside his golf cart:
Love it. I just can’t believe JD hasn’t converted to Coke Zero yet.
VIRAL VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Jon Rahm took Bethpage Black's “People’s Country Club” reputation to heart, and cameras caught him taking a leak in the trees while Dustin Johnson prepared to hit a shot:
Apparently, Jon isn't used to being part of featured group coverage yet.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Seriously, this is the best explanation for Brooks hopping on the back-nine bogey train on Sunday. Through the first two rounds, Koepka’s handicap differential was an absurd plus-13.5. You can’t give that many shots if you want to win the net division of the Seminole member-guest.
THIS WEEK IN CELEBRITY GOLFERS
David Wright was a PGA Championship ambassador, and he was everywhere at Bethpage Black all week.
I can report he also got more crowd support than Brooks Koepka. Then again, that’s not saying much.
THIS WEEK IN BROOKS KOEPKA-JENA SIMS (AND DUSTIN JOHNSON-PAULINA GRETZKY) PUBLIC DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION
How locked in is Brooks Koepka at major championships? He denied his girlfriend a kiss walking to the course before Sunday’s final round. Twice.
But don’t worry, Jena got plenty of quality smooches after:
And in one of golf’s most familiar sights, DJ quickly moved on from another heartbreaking result in a major with the help of PG:
Looks like he's holding up OK.
THIS WEEK IN PROS ARE JUST LIKE US (NOT INVOLVING TAKING A LEAK IN THE WOODS)
Harold Varner III lost a ball after yanking a shot from the high rough on Sunday, and Koepka did that thing where he pretended to look for his opponent’s ball:
Kidding. Koepka really got into those woods, risking life, Lyme and limb. More reason to like the dude. Still, this could have just as easily been a couple of 20-handicappers trying to find a Top-Flite.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win. Half the people shoot themselves out of it, and mentally I know I can beat most of them, and then from there it’s those guys left, who’s going to play good and who can win. I don’t see any reason it can’t get to double digits.” — Brooks Koepka.
Do you want to argue with Brooks about this? Didn’t think so.
THIS AND THAT
Congrats to Rob Labritz, the Director of Instruction at GlenArbor Golf Club, who finished as low club pro at Bethpage Black. The Met section of the PGA is to the club pro circuit what Brooks Koepka is to golf’s major championships. . . . Congrats to Florida Tech on winning the NCAA Division II championship even though the school’s golf program is getting the axe in the off-season. Call us crazy, but they might want to reconsider that decision. . . . Congrats to Arkansas' Maria Fassi, runner-up at last month's Augusta National Women's Amateur, for winning the Division I NCAA individual championship after putting off the LPGA for her senior season. Now that's a good decision. . . A few Golf Digest peeps got to catch up with Jim Nantz at a Vineyard Vines event in New York City:
The new line looks great, Nantz’s wine (The Calling) was great, but the highlight of the night was hearing him. What a speaker, and what a salesman. I’ve never felt so motivated to plunk $248 on a sweater (in case my wife is reading this, I didn’t actually do it). . . . And finally, with Koepka hanging on to win, the only final-round disaster at Bethpage Black came in the media center, where they ran out of Choco Tacos:
Somehow I soldiered on.
RANDOM QUESTIONS TO PONDER
Will Brooks Koepka get to double digits in majors or regular wins first?
How did Brooks Koepka not win the Masters?
How many Choco Tacos could fit in the Wanamaker Trophy?