The new Tiger? Let’s not do this again
The smile on Adam Scott’s face seemed a little fixed. He’d just been asked the question – the same query posed to pretty much anyone of note as Brooks Koepka had continued to make the PGA Championship a one-man procession on Saturday at Bethpage.
“Well, it’s not quite the same,” the Australian insisted as the inevitable came from the interviewer’s lips: ‘How similar is the feeling playing against Brooks now to Tiger in the mid 2000s?’
“I think comparing anything to Tiger is a little unfair in a good or a bad way,” added Scott. “I mean it would probably be bringing down what he managed to accomplish.
“He did this multiple times in majors, let alone tournaments.”
In that immediate moment, the words sounded forced. A demolition reminiscent of Tiger’s 2000 US Open slaughter was on the cards. It would be historic and it would be a formality.
That’s a feat only Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan can match.
The new World No. 1 also rewrote the books with his closing 74. He became just the fifth PGA Champion to go wire-to-wire – a feat last achieved 36 years ago by Hal Sutton.
And he’s the first player to be a current two-time defending champion in two of the four majors at the same time.
It means, superficially at least, the comparisons with Woods are starting to look a little less absurd.
He’s been hailed for his laser-like focus, his ability to block out distractions and the mental power that sees him rise above adversity.
All very Tiger, and all of which were needed during a back nine that threatened to set records of a different sort.
No one had lost a seven shot lead after 54 holes but the gusts that grew and whistled through the trees sent scoring soaring.
Those four bogeys towards the middle of the back nine would test any temperament but Koepka found new reserves – as Dustin Johnson found the Black bit a little too hard in the final holes.
So what’s the problem? Why are we not already donning Brooks with a mock turtle and forcing him to play Sundays in red?
It’s because remarkable as his achievements have been over the past two years – those back-to-back US Open and PGA victories – we’re in danger of getting ahead of ourselves.
Rory McIlroy looked just as all-conquering between 2011 and 2014 and hasn’t won a major since.
Jordan Spieth was a couple of putts away from winning the Grand Slam in 2015 but his game has been on life support for much of the last 18 months.
And who would have thought DJ, with all his talent, would still be sitting on one major title? The runner-up slam is hardly a substitute.
Is Koepka the dominant player in the game? Yes. Is he the one to beat whenever a major comes to town? Absolutely.
Is he ready to step into Tiger’s shoes? Not yet. Woods’ massacre of his opponents was total. They feared him.
He did it over more than a decade. There’s a lot of trophies to fill the cabinet before we can put Koepka into that category.
But why must we need to? Why not enjoy his achievement for what it is – a thrilling display of brute force, power and grit when necessary.
Let the history books decide where Koepka sits in the Tiger pantheon. Let’s just enjoy his wonderful victory in New York for what it is.