News & Opinion

Whatever happened to Brooks Koepka?

Brooks Koepka 2020 Saudi International
Brooks Koepka, who began 2020 as the top-ranked player in the world, has looked like anything but a world-beater so far this year.

4-time major champion, who finished last year as the best player in the world, has looked positively ordinary in 2020, and that’s something truly extraordinary

It would be easy to continue to discuss the prodigious length of Bryson DeChambeau, who ripped a couple of drives that topped 400 yards on Thursday at the Memorial Tournament.

But I need a break from distance and DeChambeau on the PGA Tour. Hopefully, he understands. After all, for much of the first round in Dublin, Ohio, he looked as if he had a hot poker in his hands when using the short irons as he shot 1-over 73.

I could discuss the new putting stroke used by Phil Mickelson, who stops – yes, stops – the putter head in his backswing on short putts. The stroke reminds me of Charles Barkley’s action.

I’m not sure what length is too long until he reverts to what I would call a normal stroke. That’s a topic for another day when he actually plays well, which he didn’t Thursday in shooting an even-par 72.

Tiger Woods competed on the PGA Tour for the first time in five months, and he looked very good early, with birdies on two of his first three holes. Woods loves Muirfield Village, where he has claimed five of his 82 victories. But the feeling faded after the third hole before he birdied the 18th to shoot 71.

The surprise in the sixth week since the PGA Tour season restarted continues to be Brooks Koepka.

After winning the 2019 PGA Championship in May, Koepka returned to No. 1 in the world ranking and stayed there into the new year. He solidified his world standing with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open, a T-4 at the British Open, a victory at WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and a fourth-place result at the Tour Championship.

Every time Koepka teed it up, he was the favorite of the betting public. When the calendar turned to 2020, Koepka’s game turned, as well. He has posted only one top-10 result in eight starts worldwide this year, and he missed two cuts, including last week at the inaugural Workday Charity Open at Muirfield Village.

But Koepka seemed to have found something after he made a double-bogey 6 on the sixth hole of the second round last week, falling to 5 over for the tournament. He made six birdies on his final 10 holes and, despite ultimately missing the cut by one stroke, seemed to have gained momentum for this week.

In fact, that late rally prompted Koepka to rethink skipping Memorial, so he committed to a second week at Muirfield Village.

“That's what you've got to do,” Koepka said after the second round last week. “I never give up. Never think you're out of it. You've just got to battle through it, no matter what you're doing. That's part of why you're out here. You're a pro. You just sack up and do it.”

Well, Koepka is facing a similar challenge for the second round of the Memorial after a ho-hum round of par that leaves him tied for 25th, six strokes behind leader Tony Finau (scores).

How is it possible for Koepka, a four-time major champion and, at age 30, one of the game’s bright young stars, to go from betting favorite for most of 2019 to someone who all of a sudden looks as if he’s past his expiration date?

In Friday’s second round of the Memorial, I look for more of a move from Koepka. He’s one of my six picks on my DraftKings fantasy team, and I could use more of the Koepka 2019 version than the 2020 model.

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