KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) – Brooks Koepka has a pair of 68s to start the new year in Kapalua, placing him in the top 10 of the PGA Tour winners gathered in Maui, still seven shots behind but plenty to be happy about.
He works hard and he’s not even a major.
And it’s Hawaii, a hard place to crush.
His record in major tournaments compared to regular tournaments has been a running joke with Koepka since moving from Challenge Tour to Rookie of the Year on the European Tour to PGA Tour winner to Major champion in successive years. , and since then he has been a beast in the greatest events.
Koepka has as many majors – four – as he has regular PGA Tour titles.
“We tried,” he said, stopping because he couldn’t help but laugh at the thought, “to treat everything like a middle finger.”
“And sometimes,” he continued, “he doesn’t have that feeling. He doesn’t have that passion for me.”
He’s not the only one in this line of thought, of course, although his record proves it more clearly than most. In 30 majors, Koepka has 16 top 10, including four wins, three times a silver medal. He had a chance to win them all in 2019, settling for a second consecutive PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
So what happens at regular PGA Tour events?
He won the Phoenix Open last year – his ticket to Kapalua – by putting a chip on the 17th hole for his second eagle of the final round. It can be done.
The majors are just different.
“It has to do with concentration,” Koepka said. “I put all my energy into it. You can win a tournament at the end of a four week period and I’m not that tired. But one week, one major, I’m exhausted. It’s more mental than anything else. I don’t take a second’s respite, even when I’m walking. You saw him. I can be mediocre when arriving and it’s a whole new me. The moment you get a major, you know you’re in a major. This is the best way to describe it.
“Everyone on my team says it’s like a switch when we get on the plane. “
The topic of this day was how a golfer can try to climb to the top of the most important events while playing a game so difficult to predict from day to day.
The Masters is three months away, not yet in his head. That will be when he gets on the plane.
Patrick Cantlay is cut from a different fabric from Koepka in many ways.
He had four wins last season, was FedEx Cup champion and PGA Tour player of the year. It was a very good year. And although he briefly led the Masters late Sunday afternoon the year Tiger Woods claimed victory, Cantlay’s major performance in 2021 was a disappointment. He missed two cups and two other times has never been in contention.
What makes his perspective different from Koepka’s is to focus his game on being at his best when and where and for everything he plays. One of those times is bound to be one of the most important four weeks of the year.
“I think the peak… I don’t know what the correct term is, but I think the idea of even thinking that you might be so aware of your ups and downs and be able to predict them so that they will peak at the right timing is kinda crazy for me, ”Cantlay said.
Cantlay’s philosophy is to prepare for each tournament the best he can, and not playing too many tournaments to stay fresh, is his best chance to perform.
“I think it would be really, really hard to make it as strong as you can or peak if you played 35 weeks a year,” Cantlay said. “So my way of thinking is to play less but to have more quality starts, and I don’t think much of a peak or a peak in particular weeks. “
Koepka’s philosophy when the light is on is simple: don’t make mistakes. He likens it to being a jockey, staying in the lead pack through 63 holes, then pulling out the whip for the backstretch if needed.
“But make sure, anyway, that I don’t double buggy.” That’s my only goal in the majors, “said Koepka.” It’s not to make as many birdies as possible. It takes two holes to get a double. You need one to get a bogey. “
He made it even simpler in 2019 at the PGA when he slashed his chances of winning by cutting half the field as players he will beat, half of those who remain just won’t play well. that week then the pressure will increase to most of the others. This makes it a small area to beat.
He continued to win that week.
Was it like that for Woods? Did he have a formula for peaking at the right time, or was he just way better than everyone else, and there was a good chance he was playing a lot more often than not?
“He’s mentally better than everyone else,” Koepka said. “And he’s physically gifted. Let’s not be crooked. He’s pretty (expletive) good. He’s got more talent in his pinky than some guys here, no disrespect. You combine that with the mental side, he knows. that he can beat anyone. That’s the thing. And that’s what I really believe. “
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