Closing out victories nothing new for Koepka
Uses winning experiences to claim first PGA TOUR title, edges field at WM Phoenix Open
January 31, 2015
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
- Brooks Koepka pulled away late at TPC Scottsdale to stave off multiple contenders on Sunday. (Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Brooks Koepka has been a pro for fewer than three years, but already has won more trophies than during his four-year career at Florida State.
His professional titles have come in Spain (twice), Italy, Scotland and Turkey. The Florida native earned his first win in his home country Sunday, claiming the Waste Management Phoenix Open by one shot over Bubba Watson, Ryan Palmer and Hideki Matsuyama.
Koepka’s circuitous route as a professional has been well-documented. He won three times during his All-American career in college, but headed to Europe because it was the only place where he could get starts when he turned pro in 2012. He won four times in 2012 and 2013 on the European Challenge Tour, then won his first European Tour title in November at the Turkish Airlines Open. The Phoenix Open was his sixth professional win.
“I have just learned a lot,” Koepka, 24, said. “But my drive, I think is what it is. I want to be the best player in the world. I’m not there yet, and I know it’s going to take time, but I want to get to that point.”
He took a step in that direction Sunday with his first PGA TOUR title. He’s now No. 6 in the FedExCup and will make a big move in the Official World Golf Ranking (he began the week at No. 33). He has finished in the top 10 in all three of his PGA TOUR starts this season.
Koepka shot a final-round 66 on Sunday at TPC Scottsdale to finish at 15-under 269. He started the final round three shots behind Martin Laird, and was four shots behind after making par on the first five holes. He made birdie on Nos. 6 and 7, but didn’t make another one until the par-5 13th. Then he rolled in a 51-foot eagle putt from off the green at the par-5 15th.
He was tied with Laird after 15 holes, but only needed to par in after Laird’s collapse. Laird made bogey on the drivable par-4 17th after hitting his tee shot well right of the green, then made double-bogey at the last hole after hitting his tee shot in the water. None of the runners-up could make birdie on the final three holes.
“I wanted to come out this year, get a win, make the Presidents Cup team and further down the road make the Ryder Cup,” said Koepka, who finished fourth at last year’s U.S. Open. “I don’t see why I can’t. I feel like my game is ready for that. I (am) ready for majors and to win them.”
Brooks Koepka joins the winners circle at Waste Management
FAST START: Hideki Matsuyama’s day couldn’t have started much better. Matsuyama, who began the final round three shots behind Martin Laird, holed out from 129 yards for eagle on No. 1. He also birdied Nos. 3 and 5 to erase Laird’s lead. Matsuyama made just one birdie and one bogey over the next 14 holes, though.
He took the lead at 15 under with a birdie at the par-5 13th, but three-putted the next hole. Matsuyama missed birdie putts of 14 feet and 18 feet on the final two holes. He shot a final-round 67 to finish second, one shot behind Koepka.
“In the first three days I was able to play good. … I wasn’t able to put a great round together on the last day, so that’s something I have to become better at,” Matsuyama said.
Matsuyama, 22, has three top-three finishes in seven starts this season. He’s 10th in the FedExCup.
Hideki Matsuyama starts strong with an eagle at Waste Management
CLOSE AGAIN: Bubba Watson finished one stroke behind the champion at the Waste Management Phoenix Open for the second consecutive year.
Last year, Watson missed a 5-foot par putt on the final hole. The long hitter couldn’t take advantage of TPC Scottsdale’s closing holes this time.
Watson reached 14 under par after holing a bunker shot on the par-3 12th hole and two-putting for birdie from 22 feet on the par-5 13th. He parred the final five holes, though.
“To see it go in, that was a big boost,” Watson said about the bunker shot at the 12th hole. He hit 3-iron for his 253-yard second shot on the next hole, but the ball unexpectedly flew all the way to the hole.
He laid up on the par-5 15th after driving into the rough and three-putted from 105 feet on the drivable par-4 17th.
“At the start of the week, I’d be happy just having a chance on Sunday, but when push comes to shove, we always want a little bit more,” Watson said.
Watson, winner of this season’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, is No. 3 in the FedExCup.
He has finished no worse than 15th in his past four starts at this event.
Bubba Watson’s superb bunker hole out at Waste Management
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RAHM'S RUN: Jon Rahm’s heart was beating so fast that he thought he would pass out on his first tee shot Thursday. The amateur from Arizona State calmed down enough to finish fifth in Phoenix.
He shot a final-round 68 to finish fifth with a 12-under 272 (70-68-66-68).
“I learned to deal with it, and just decided to try to enjoy it,” said Rahm, the world’s No. 3 amateur. “Once you enjoy something, even if you’re nervous, you don’t think about it.”
Rahm will return to normal life shortly. He is scheduled to board a flight at 11:30 a.m. Monday to join his team at a college tournament in Hawaii.
Rahm, who was medalist at the 2014 World Amateur Team Championship, said he still plans to complete his college career before turning pro. He is a junior at Arizona State.
PALMER POSITIVE: Ryan Palmer said he is playing the best golf of his career. He was bogey-free on the weekend in Phoenix, but finished one shot behind Koepka. Palmer also didn’t make a bogey in his first-round 64.
“I’m not going to hang my head down,” Palmer said. “It was a great week. I had some chances there at the end.”
He finished at 14-under 270 (64-72-68-66). He made just one birdie over the final nine holes, though.
Palmer has finished in the top 25 in 10 of his past 11 worldwide starts, dating back to a T5 at the 2014 PGA Championship. He is 20th in the FedExCup.
CALL OF THE DAY
Doug Bell calls Brooks Koepka's eagle putt at No. 15, which helped prompt Koepka to victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Category Round 4 leader Statistic Weekly leader Statistic Strokes gained: tee-to-green Brooks Koepka 4.79 strokes gained Bubba Watson 3.29 strokes gained/round Driving distance J.B. Holmes 327.5 yards Tony Finau 312.6 yards Driving accuracy C. Campbell, G. DeLaet, B. Stuard 13 of 14 Francesco Molinari 48 of 56 Greens in regulation Kevin Streelman 17 of 18 A. Cabrera, R. Palmer 56 of 72 Strokes gained: putting Freddie Jacobson 5.32 strokes gained Ryan Palmer 1.74 strokes gained/round Putts per round B. Martin, C. Renfrew 22 Brandt Snedeker 25.25 Total birdies B. de Jonge, H. English, F. Jacobson, B. Martin, J. Spieth 7 Zach Johnson 22
ODDS AND ENDS: Jordan Spieth, who was seeking his third consecutive worldwide win, shot a final-round 65 to finish T7. It was his first TOUR start of 2015 and just his second start of the 2014-15 season (T35, WGC-HSBC Champions). … Robert Streb, who’s second in the FedExCup, finished 10th, his fifth top-10 in seven starts, including his win at the McGladrey Classic. Streb’s wife Maggie is due to give birth Tuesday to the couple’s first child. … Justin Thomas, who played in Saturday’s final threesome, shot a final-round 72 to finish 17th. He shot 1-under 141 on the weekend, but still collected his fifth consecutive top-25. This was the third consecutive week Thomas played in the final group on the weekend. Daniel Berger, who also played alongside Thomas in Saturday’s final group, finished 10th to collect the first top-10 of his TOUR career. … Freddie Jacobson and Kevin Streelman had Sunday’s low round, shooting 7-under 64s. Jacobson finished seventh, while Streelman finished 30th. … Monday qualifier Cory Renfrew shot a final-round 66 to finish T59. He was the only one of the three Monday qualifiers to make the cut.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Brooks Koepka’s unlikely eagle putt is the Shot of the Day