'I holed the first two bunker shots and he started to listen'
Think of all the hoopla whenever anyone wins a pair of majors in a season; Jordan Spieth in 2015, Rory McIlroy the year before, Padraig Harrington in 2008 and Tiger before that in 2005. You can’t move for plaudits and accolades.
Then there’s Brooks Koepka who defended his US Open title at Shinnecock Hills, after Tommy Fleetwood’s heroics, before beating Tiger by two at Bellerive. Three wins in his last six majors but still we’re not raving about the muscular, and magnificent, Floridian.
I’m not sure it’s that well known a fact that Pete Cowen looks after his short game. The legendary Sheffield coach, thanks to Koepka’s brilliance at the PGA, completed his career Grand Slam. So who better to give us an insight into the 28-year-old’s mindset and game as he looks to sign off a spectacular season by capturing the FedEx Cup?
How Koepka can win the FedEx Cup
Wins the Tour Championship AND
– DeChambeau finishes in a three-way tie for 2nd or worse
– Rose finishes T2 or worse
– Can finish 2nd and still have a mathematical chance of winning
Has Brooks got a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the lack of adulation or does it not concern him?
I think anybody would always care but you can tell it rankles him a little bit. He looked at the odds for the PGA Championship and he said ‘how’s he in front of me?’
He said on the flight up from the Bridgestone, where he played unbelievably well from tee to green and putted poorly but he still finished fifth, ‘they’re going to have to play really well to beat me this week the way I’m playing’.
I’ve also seen a change in him. He used to not sign many autographs but he’s changed that and he signs an awful lot now. I said to him it’s karma, you’re getting back what you’re giving.
Maybe you need to do a little bit more of that and let people embrace you and see what sort of guy you are rather than you’re trying to be so aloof. They all try and be like Tiger Woods used to be in the early 2000s, separating themselves from the pack.
People have almost forgotten about Brooks’ wrist injury slightly – how serious was it?
He had an operation and he was in a cast for almost a month. The only thing he could do was gym work and obviously that’s strengthened him an awful lot in the rest of the body. And then at Sawgrass he had another reoccurrence of it on the range when a buggy driver drove straight in front of him when he was just about to hit his long iron and he stopped so quickly that the wrist popped a little bit.
Me and his caddie, Ricky, just said get on with it, it’s only a bit of pain and luckily, he did. But he was thinking that it might be badly injured again, but it wasn’t, he was alright.
How good is his driving?
Brooks’ driving is phenomenal. He and Dustin, when they’re on song, make the course look so much easier and when your drive is as long and good as that, it will win you tournaments. When Justin Thomas drives he looks flat out, but when Dustin and Brooks do it, it looks like they have another gear to go up. They’re in a slightly different league.
Justin Rose can obviously compete with them because he’s putting well, it’s all set up for a great finale and I’m also looking forward to what they’re doing in Paris, which is a strategic course. I’d like to know how Phil Mickelson is going to stand on that 3rd tee and find the fairway. It will be an interesting one.
What have been the significant moments in his winning majors?
In 2017 I was at FedEx St. Jude Classic the week before Erin Hills and I walked all four rounds with Brooks and I watched his body language, he was asking the question why he keeps finishing second, why he can’t win.
I wasn’t impressed with his body language over the four days so on the Tuesday of Erin Hills I sat him down with Ricky and told him that with that attitude he wasn’t going to do anything. With an attitude of ‘why me?’ and ‘why am I here?’, you’re never going to win anything.
I challenged him to change his attitude and show the attitude of a champion and on the flight back he said ‘thanks for the bollocking!’
To be off for four months and come back and win two out of three majors is very impressive and shows you how good he is. Everybody is fearful but it’s important to not let your fear turn into panic, the great players are able to control their fear.
It always surprises you when someone wins two in a year. We were used to it in the Tiger Woods era but it doesn’t happen that often these days. It is pretty impressive really.
How would you rate Brooks’ short game now compared to five years ago when you started working together?
We have a joke about it, I would have said at the start he was a 1/10 and now he’s 3/10 so he’s got a 200 per cent improvement. So that’s pretty good going.
What are the bad bits still?
He probably plays the wrong shot at the wrong time and that’s all I would say. What we say over a shot is really if your life depended on it what shot would you hit, so he’s got to start choosing the right shot at the right time.
I see with players, when they become great chippers and good bunker players, they actually take a shot on they shouldn’t be taking on – chippers chip when they should putt and I’ve seen that an awful lot.
So great chippers tend to get forced into chipping when, really, they should hit the much simpler shots. So we try and take the road to success in that if your life depended on it what would you actually do? We did that at Pinehurst.
Turn the page to find out why Pete will never work on Brooks’ putting…