The Book on Brooks
Everything you need to know about the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Player of the Year
October 09, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Everything you need to know about the 2017-18 PGA TOUR Player of the Year
While making his bed one day earlier this year, Brooks Koepka started crying in pain. Although he looks like the toughest guy in the room, the physical agony from his injured left wrist – which, after stem-cell treatment and platelet-rich plasma injections, had sidelined him for nearly four months – had reduced him to tears.
Soon, he found a local chiropractor near his home in South Florida. The diagnosis? Koepka, with his soft cast removed, had dislocated his wrist while moving too quickly to pull up his bedsheets.
“So he popped it back in,” Koepka said, “then we’re off and running.”
And he never stopped. He returned to the PGA TOUR eight days later, spent the summer winning two majors, then finished inside the top 10 after the FedExCup Playoffs before slowing down long enough on Tuesday to claim the PGA TOUR Player of the Year award.
“The lowest of lows and the highest of highs,” the 28-year-old Koepka said about the most unusual season. “It was pretty dramatic. Look, at the beginning of the season, I was just hoping to be back out playing again. To sit here after winning two majors and Player of the Year, I don’t think I even thought this was going to happen.
“This is incredible. It’s an honor. It’s mind-boggling.”
But it’s certainly no surprise. He has the game (one of the TOUR’s biggest bombers), he has the adaptability (his back-to-back U.S. Open wins were on different setups) and he has the mental makeup (hey, he’s chill) to emerge as one of the TOUR’s 20-something stars, right up there with JT, Jordan, Rory and the rest. “Calm. Collected. Confident,” was how Jack Nicklaus described Koepka.
Perhaps the only thing he’s lacking is recognition -- although being Player of the Year may finally eliminate that issue. Koepka once told Golf Digest that he’s “really good at blending in” and by his own admission, he hangs out in the background as much as possible.
“Most people don’t know the real me, my life off the golf course,” he said Tuesday. “I can go to plenty of restaurants and not have anybody come up and say anything, where a lot of guys can’t. Look at Dustin (Johnson) or Jordan or guys like that. They can’t do that. I’m still blending in.”
Then with a laugh, he adds, “I mean, I get confused for Tony Finau most every week.”
Koepka has turned this lack of attention into motivation. It allows him to play with a chip on his shoulder – much like Michael Jordan would take perceived slights and raise the level of his play against his NBA opponents.
“I think you always have to play with a little chip on your shoulder if you want to get the best out of you,” Koepka said. “I love competition. I find a way, whatever it is, to try to play my best and get myself up for every event.
“I think a lot of the chips that everyone’s been talking about is because I was left off notables as the defending champion of the U.S. Open, just things like that. To be at the PGA, I shoot a decent first-round score and the guy who never won a major shot two higher than I did, and he’s being interviewed. I’m like man, we’re in 10th, 12th place after the first day and I’m like, all right, I won a major this year, two-time major winner – you know what I mean? It seems kind of odd. But whatever…”
On Tuesday, at least, there was no one slighting Koepka after his peers, his fellow competitors, voted him as Player of the Year. No golfer, from their perspective, had a better season.
As a result, Koepka will receive the Jack Nicklaus Trophy. It’s not the first award in Koepka’s home that showcases an image of the Golden Bear.
Born in West Palm Beach, Florida, and growing up in nearby Lake Worth, Koepka would occasionally see Nicklaus, a longtime resident of the area. Twice, Koepka won junior events at the Bear’s Club. The trophy was a plaque that included Nicklaus trading cards from the high points of his legendary career.
“I still have those trophies,” Koepka said. “… It’s a very big plaque, as you can imagine, with all his major victories and everything. It’s pretty cool.
“Mr. Nicklaus was always exactly what you’d expect he would be, very gracious and very kind. It’s nice to add something else of his to my trophy collection.”
Provided that chip remains on Koepka’s shoulder, you get the feeling there will be more to come.
A chronological list of quotes from Brooks Koepka that reflect the ebb and flow of his 2017-18 season:
“Game feels good and excited to start the season.” (Oct. 26)
“I have some wrist issues. I want to figure that out. I can’t grip anything strong with my left hand.” (Dec. 6, via AP)
“It felt like someone was jabbing a knife in my hand. The problem is we don’t have any answers.” (Jan. 7, via Golf Channel)
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule. But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters.” (Jan. 19 statement)
“They said I would be about 80 percent but I can’t play 80 percent. I either have to go full bore or not at all."(March 20 on decision to not play Masters, via USA Today)
“It feels like I’ve been out for six months. … It was torn a lot worse than they originally thought.” (April 20, via AP)
“There’s nobody more excited to be here than me, I can tell you that. To get back out, it felt like it took forever.” (May 13 at THE PLAYERS Championship)
“I feel like my game is coming around. … I am finally finding a rhythm and feel like I’m getting really close.” (May 26)
“I feel like it healed nicely. I like where my game’s trending right now.” (June 7)
“To have my name on there twice is pretty incredible, and to go back-to-back is even more extraordinary. It feels so special.” (June 17 after winning second straight U.S. Open)
“I’ll be honest. I’m dead right now.” (June 21 at Travelers)
“Right now I’m focused on just winning. That’s the only thing I’ve got in my mind. Second place just isn’t good enough. I finished second a lot and just tired of it.” (July 17 on eve of Open Championship)
“Didn’t play very good. Didn’t strike it good. Never really felt comfortable.” (July 22 after finishing T-39 at the Open)
“Missing four months, the schedule got completely flipped around for me. I’m having to play a lot right now to play some events because I missed so much time.” (July 25 on eve of RBC Canadian Open)
“It was as good as I’ve hit it in my pro career. I don’t think I’ve ever driven it as well as I did. .. I feel confident going into next week.” (Aug. 5 after WGC-Bridgestone Invitational)
“When you take four months off, you really appreciate it and you’re eager to get back out there. Anytime you can tee it up, especially only doing three majors, it makes every one a little bit more important. I kind of fell back in love with the game a little bit.” (Aug. 7 on eve of PGA Championship)
“When I look at what I’ve done in the past two months, it’s incredible. Looking where I was, sitting on my couch watch the Masters, and to think I would do this, I would have laughed at you and told you there was no way, no chance.” (Aug. 12 after winning PGA)
“There’s a lot on my mind. I can get to world No. 1, win the FedExCup. It’s a big stretch, these next four weeks.” (Aug. 23)
“I don’t see why it has to end. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I don’t see why it should stop.” (Sept. 27)
Hitting the statistical highlights of Koepka's season:
|Strokes Gained rankings|
|Scores by round|
|64 or under||5 (8.1%)|
|65 to 69||31 (50%)|
|70 to 74||19 (30.6%)|
|75 or worse||7 (11.3%)|
|Rounds under par||42|
|Rounds at even par||4|
|Rounds over par||16|
|Cumulative for all rounds||86 under|
68.27 -- Koepka's final-round scoring average. Of the 140-plus primary statistical categories used by ShotLink, it's the only category this season in which Koepka led the TOUR. It's also the eighth best final-round average since 1980 when data was first collected.
9th -- Koepka's ranking in Scrambling this season, based on his 64.3 percent success rate. Before this season, Koepka had never ranked better than 108th in Scrambling.
33 -- Number of times a player has won multiple majors in the same season. Koepka becomes the most recent player on that list.
411 -- Length in yards of Koepka's longest drive this season, on the 16th hole of the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. That tied for the 20th longest drive of the season.
62.5 -- Percentage of Koepka's tee shots that were over 300 yards. No player had a higher percentage this season (see chart below).
Equipment Insider Jonathan Wall reviews the tools that fueled Koepka this season:
Coming off his first major championship win during the 2016-17 PGA TOUR season, Brooks Koepka limited the equipment changes to the driver during the 2017-18 campaign.
After opening the year with TaylorMade's M4 driver, Koepka swapped the club for the company's M3 at THE PLAYERS Championship, due to the flight it produced and how easy it was to turn the ball over on command.
A former Nike Golf equipment staffer, Koepka continues to play a Vapor Fly Pro 3-iron. Mizuno's JPX-900 Tour irons were originally created with Koepka in mind when he became an equipment free agent following Nike's departure from the hard-goods industry in 2016.
Koepka's 35-inch Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 putter was refinished prior to his return to the course at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. The "T10" represents the 10th anniversary of Scotty Cameron using Teryllium inserts in putters made for TOUR players. Over the years, Koepka has added weight to the putter head, going from a D6 swing weight to closer to D9 with the current version.
Driver: TaylorMade M3 (Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 70TX shaft), 9.5 degrees
3-wood: TaylorMade M2 Tour HL (Mitsubishi Diamana D+ 80TX shaft), 16.5 degrees
Irons: Nike Vapor Fly Pro (3-iron; Fujikura Pro 95 Tour Spec X shaft), Mizuno JPX-900 Tour (4-PW; True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (52-12F, 56-10S, 60-08M degrees; True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400 shafts)
Putter: Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x