Augusta - Brooks Koepka could become only the third modern-era golfer to
capture three of four consecutive majors this week, teeing off at the
Masters for the first time as a major champion.
Koepka missed last year's showdown at Augusta National with a left
wrist injury, then bounced back to defend his US Open title at
Shinnecock Hills and hold off a late charge from 14-time major winner
Tiger Woods to capture last year's PGA Championship.
"I wasn't doing anything last year. I was still in pain. I still
couldn't push down on a shampoo bottle to get anything out," Koepka said
"It was a blessing in disguise. I think that was something I needed
to really kind of find my love for the game again, to sit down and watch
and really realize how much I do miss this game, assess where I was at.
"And then to come back and to have the year I had was impressive because I don't think anybody saw that one coming."
Woods, who won four majors in a row in the 2000-01 "Tiger Slam", and
Ben Hogan -- who captured the 1953 Masters, US Open and British Open --
are the only players to win three majors out of four, a feat Koepka
would match if he dons a green jacket on Sunday.
The 28-year-old American's major shockers have fans at Augusta
National curious about how Koepka will handle the lightning-fast greens
and formidable shotmaking required at Augusta National. He has steadily
improved in three prior starts -- finishing 33rd, 21st and 11th from
2015 to 2017 -- but that was before he had won a major.
"I've got three trophies that I haven't had any time I've teed it up.
I've never been a major champion when I played here. Completely
different player probably," Koepka said.
"Understand how to handle pressure a lot better. Understand this golf
course a lot better. Even sitting out a year, there are certain things
you can pick up on when you're watching.
"And really matured on and off the golf course, I think, is a big
deal. Everything has come at me fast over the last 18, 20 months, and
learning how to deal with that now, I'm becoming a little better at it,
so that makes everything a lot easier."
That includes spoiling fan hopes of a 15th major victory by Woods just as he did last August at Bellerive.
"I think I already spoiled everybody of their dreams the last time we
played. So, sorry," Koepka said. "It would be cool to see him win. I
think everybody in the field would love to stop him. I mean, I enjoyed
stopping history. I had a great time."
Koepka, last year's US PGA Player of the Year, won in South Korea
last October and was runner-up in the US PGA Honda Classic but still has
more major wins than non-major PGA triumphs.
"I haven't played as well as I would have liked in the beginning part
of the year, but over the last couple weeks, I've seen some solid
results, and I like where my game is trending," Koepka said.
He also enjoys being back at Augusta National, where as a child his
autograph request was snubbed by Phil Mickelson. Now Koepka will be
teeing off Thursday just after the three-time Masters winner, as the
last man in the last trio alongside three-time major winner Jordan
Spieth and England's Paul Casey.
"Once you play it a few times, you learn some of the subtle nuances,"
Koepka said. "If you hit a lot of greens and leave yourself some uphill
putts, you're going to have some good chances."