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Brooks Koepka

Koepka’s rare outbreak of emotion leads to stark admission as career hangs in the balance

We’ve seen many tearful interviews this year on all tours, but none were less expected than LIV’s latest winner Brooks Koepka

 

“It’s the best I’ve felt in three years,” Brooks Koepka said after an opening-round 62 in Jeddah. “Everything’s starting to come together. Body is coming together, the golf swing is starting to come around. I’m excited.

“It sucks we only have this event and Miami left, and a bunch of time off.”

I know, I know. But they all said they signed for LIV Golf because they wanted to spend more time with their families!

For Koepka, though, it’s much more than that.

It’s been a tough year for the 32-year-old. After top-six finishes in each of the last three majors of 2021, missed cuts at the Masters and Open have sandwiched a pair of 55th-place finishes at the PGA Championship and US Open.

Remarkably, this has been his first season without a major top 10 since 2014. And that’s simply not good enough for a player of Koepka’s standards.

A year ago he described his body as “glass”. He had wrist, hip, and knee problems and he wasn’t sure if he would play again, let alone win.

But he – in his own words – “put the band back together”, including adding Claude Harmon III back to his coaching staff, and the results were almost immediate as he saw off Peter Uihlein at the seventh LIV Golf Invitational.

In a rare showing of emotion from the Koepka, he fought back the tears after coming out on top in a playoff against his close friend, former Challenge Tour roommate, and Smash GC teammate.

“I didn’t know if my career was over,” Koepka said. “I told Claude I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to play, so it’s nice to be able to come back and be able to win.

“The last two years haven’t been fun. It’s been a long road and I’m super excited.”

It was a tense finale at Royal Greens, as both Koepka and Uihlein birdied the 18th to reach 12-under-par and end the chances of their closest rivals, Joaquin Niemann and Sergio Garcia.

The birdie train kept rolling in the playoff, before Uihlein skinned one out of a bunker at the third extra hole.

Brooks Koepka

“We’ve known each other for so long,” Koepka said. “That’s what you want to do, right? You want to compete with some of your very good friends, go toe to toe with them.”

Uihlein, meanwhile, will be able to console himself with the second-place prize which tips just over the $2 million mark, as well as a whopping $4 million bonus for finishing third in the season-long standings – which all makes his $750,000 share of the team prize look like pocket money.

“It’s a good chunk of change,” he said after.

For Koepka, who says LIV’s team format has “revived” him, it’s all about Miami now before a fuller schedule in 2023 and – who knows? – perhaps a return to the major contenders’ circle.

For now, though, he has his first win in almost two years and almost $5 million extra in the bank – not that he’ll care about that bit…

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