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U.S. Open 2022: A confident, not cocky Brooks Koepka is back where he belongs: in contention at a major


David Cannon

BROOKLINE, Mass. — There is a fine line between confident and cocky, and it’s one Brooks Koepka has been straddling ever since going back-to-back in this very event in 2017 and 2018. Sometimes it can come off as contradictory, like when he once claimed he only practices for the majors and then, not long after, told us all he was a “range rat.”

One thing is for certain, when Koepka is coming off a strong round in a major championship, he can be a little of both.

On Friday at The Country Club, Koepka shot a three-under 67 in some windy and extra-crispy conditions to reach even par for the championship. As the afternoon wave played, that was good enough for T-22, which might not sound like your typical “in contention” label, but this isn’t your typical tournament. Koepka was only five back of the lead, a deficit that could very well shrink by day’s end.

“I feel like it's been really close. Maybe the scores haven't reflected it, but it's only a matter of time,” Koepka said afterward.

His scores, at least since the Waste Management Phoenix Open, have certainly not reflected it, particularly in the majors. In the Masters and PGA Championship, the last two events he played in prior to this week, Koepka missed the cut and tied for 55th, respectively. 

“Tulsa I was just ready to get married. I was waiting for that party,” he said. “But after Augusta, definitely a little disappointed, pissed off, all that.

“I feel like I've been playing a lot better than maybe the results [show]. I'm happy where I'm at this week. Maybe a little bit disappointed where I'm at just because of how poorly my iron play is, and usually that's the best part of my game, and it's just not even close to even average.”

Koepka is within striking distance, a position that’s served him well in the majors. At the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, he came from one back after 54 holes, shooting a final-round 67 to claim his first major by four strokes. In 2018 at Shinnecock, Koepka was five back after 36 holes, then put together a 72-68 weekend to win by one. Two months later, he overcame a two-shot deficit after 36 holes at the Bellerive PGA to pick up major No. 3. His fourth major was an impressive wire-to-wire triumph in the 2019 PGA at Bethpage, the only of the four that didn’t require some come-from-behind heroics.

What that 2019 PGA did feature, however, was a near meltdown down the stretch, which has led social-media critics, podcasters and various other talking heads in golf to theorize that near-back-nine debacle at Bethpage humbled Koepka a bit. You would not have believed that on Friday afternoon when he dropped one of his vintage major-week lines.

“I don't come here hoping for second place,” he said “I think if you are a good player, you want to come in here and win. That's why everybody is teeing it up. Nobody has a goal of just making the cut or anything like that.

“I'm pretty confident, but I feel like everybody should be confident in themselves, and if you're not -- people hate confidence. That's why people aren't a big fan of me.”

Confident, cocky, a little of both. That’s the zone Koepka lives in, and it’s serving him well once again in a major.