News & Opinion

Brooks Koepka fails to impress in his return

Brooks Koepka in 1st round at 2020 The CJ Cup at Shadow Creek
Brooks Koepka plays his 1st competitive round in 2 months, and it shows.

After 2 months off with a bum left knee, Koepka shows some rust as Hawk & Purk debate his fitness for a potential green jacket

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

What’s your takeaway on Brooks Koepka’s first competitive round, a 2-over 74, since taking two months off to deal with persistent knee issues?

Hawk’s take: Persistent? You could say that. Koepka’s left knee has been a news item for more than a year now, making it fair to wonder whether this has become a chronic problem. Rest hasn’t done him any good, but the joint isn’t damaged enough to require surgery. Koepka steps away from the action for a bit, then returns and looks nothing like the guy who won two U.S. Opens and a pair of PGA Championships before his 30th birthday.

In that context, it really doesn’t matter how Koepka fared in his first start since mid-August. He exhibited predictable signs of rust Thursday at the CJ Cup, driving it left on Shadow Creek’s par-4 ninth, then knocking his second into the water and doing well to get out with a bogey. He lost a hybrid miles left off the 11th tee – a shot which you just never saw him hit before the injury – then drove it into the creek left of the 15th fairway en route to a double-bogey 6.

We’ve seen Koepka play this type of round on numerous occasions in 2020, so there’s no evidence to suggest he’s now operating at 100 percent and ready to return to premium form. All that matters this week is whether the guy can get out of Las Vegas without another physical setback. The Masters is a mere four weeks away. Bum knees and green jackets definitely don’t mix.

Purk’s take: There’s not much rust in the Nevada desert, because it takes water to make rust. Instead, Brooks Koepka brought the rust with him from humid Florida and was covered with the stuff in his return to the PGA Tour in Las Vegas. After two months spent trying to heal his injured knee and hip, Koepka did well not to set off any alarm bells in the first round of the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek.

Proclaiming that he is completely healthy, Koepka eased his way into the tournament on Thursday with a 2-over round. Nothing really great and nothing especially bad happened to Koepka in the desert oasis that looks more like North Carolina than Vegas.

The first test of the day for his rehabbed joints came at the 461-yard, par-4 ninth when he drove it left and his ball wound up on a severe upslope in the high rough next to a fairway bunker. He tried to muscle the ball out with his arms and hands without putting much stress on the knee and hip. The ball found a penalty area well short of the green, and he did well to make a bogey.

On the other hand, he made a 7-footer for birdie at the 231-yard, par-3 13th, which was the second-hardest hole on the course. His grade for his first event back? Give him a gentleman’s C.

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