It's time you started showing Koepka some respectAugust 12, 2018 Golf News
Brooks Koepka won his third major title in 15 months at Bellerive. So why, asks Steve Carroll, does the American not get the respect he deserves?
Maybe it was the glare off the trophy, or the flashbulbs popping and distracting in the early New York evening. But as the question came in at the winner’s press conference I was convinced there was a brief flash of anger in Brooks Koepka’s eyes.
It had been a marvellous effort to defend his US Open trophy, a culmination of the improbable at Shinnecock Hills given the wrist injury that had blunted his early season and forced him to miss the Masters.
He’d been methodical, at times swashbuckling, and ruthless.
Even at this moment of triumph, though, the American recognised a sense of under-appreciation.
“I always feel like I’m overlooked,” he declared. “I couldn’t care less. It doesn’t bug me. I just kind of keep doing what I’m doing, keep plugging away, kind of hide behind closed doors sometimes.”
Yet his body language, to me at least, revealed something different.
There was a touch of resentment – a frustration that the plaudits that should rightly be his still aren’t coming his way.
It’s all the stranger because something happens to Koepka during a major week – qualities all too evident as he out-dueled Tiger Woods and Adam Scott to claim the PGA Championship.
The focus narrows, the concentration rises and everything matters more than the humdrum day-to-day.
“There’s a lot more focus that I have in the majors,” he explained. “I mean everyone on my team even says I act a little different, the way I approach it.
“It’s very down to a routine this week and it’s much more disciplined. Eating right, going to the gym, it’s almost timed perfectly.”
For a career that has reached stratospheric levels so quickly, Koepka’s major record is insanely good.
Even if you take out the two US Open crowns, there are still another six top 10s and a further five top 20s in the big four events. The PGA has been claimed in only the 20th major in which he has competed.
He may claim not to be bothered about it, but the 28-year-old is criminally overlooked.
He was 25/1 with some bookies before the start of this tournament. When Jordan Spieth was carving a similar swathe a couple of years ago, you were lucky if you got near a quarter of those odds.
It can’t be about the way he plays. Koepka overpowers a course, combining devastating length off the tee with an arrow-like short game.
When he sees an opening, he doesn’t hesitate. It is brutally effective.
He took Bellerive’s front nine apart on Saturday, dispatching the challenge in just 30 shots. Yet while he was dismantling the St Louis layout, most of us were fawning over Tiger’s latest renaissance.
The crowds cheered every green the GOAT hit like it was his elusive 15th major.
Woods then threatened a whirlwind on Sunday and again took all the crowds with him.
Koepka received polite applause. He is respected, but not loved.
Is it because he appears indifferent on the course and detached in a way that maybe only a late 80s Nick Faldo could appreciate?
He allows nothing to get under his skin. There’s something almost robotic about the way he goes about his task.
His demeanour doesn’t excite spectators, even if his game does. Nor does he live for golf in the way some of us might expect. But they are our problems, not his. We should be marvelling at his talent, not casually letting it pass us by.
Does anything faze him? When faced with adversity, as he was when two early final round bogeys eradicated his lead and then Adam Scott came toe-to-toe with him on the back nine, he simply found another gear.
With victory, Koepka added his name to a very exclusive club.
One that comprises Sarazen, Hogan, Nicklaus and Tiger – the only players to win the US Open and the PGA Championship in the same season.
It might be hard for some to recognise it, but they are only kidding themselves.
Koepka deserves to be in their company.