His résumé is heavy with major championship accomplishments, and Brooks Koepka has somewhat famously let it be known that the regular tournaments are not much of a priority to him.
So a couple of missed cuts late in a long year that has seen its share of injury struggles for Koepka might not seem like that big of deal, even with his made-for-TV match with Bryson DeChambeau looming on Friday.
Then again, there Koepka was a few weeks ago in Houston hitting balls with darkness setting in, under the lights, trying to work out the issues in what has been a troubling game for the better part of three months.
“I’ve been playing bad for so long, so I’m just trying to play my way out of this thing and figure it out,” Koepka said. “Hopefully we come out on the other side soon.”
Koepka said that at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, where he missed the cut by 4 shots. A week later in Houston, he again missed the cut, this time by 3 strokes.
DeChambeau didn’t miss the opportunity to poke some fun at Koepka about the missed cuts to hype “The Match.” He tweeted out the photo of Koepka with his eyes closed from earlier this year in the video that went viral, sparking their monthslong feud that led to the 12-hole made-for-TV (4 p.m. ET Friday, TNT) encounter.
Since a tie for sixth at The Open in July, Koepka has played eight tournaments with a best result of a tie for 22nd at the BMW Championship. A wrist injury suffered during the third round of the Tour Championship while hitting a tree root caused him to withdraw. It also, briefly, put in doubt the Ryder Cup, where he ended up playing four matches and going 2-2.
Aside from a Sunday singles victory at Whistling Straits in an overwhelming United States victory over Europe, there’s not been much for Koepka to get excited about.
And yet, he contended in three major championships and won his first tournament in more than a year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February.
He followed that with a tie for second at the WGC-Workday Championship and seemed to be trending for a strong Masters when he suffered a freak accident at his home in March, injuring his right knee — he dealt with left knee problems throughout 2019 and 2020 — leading to a procedure.
He had surgery March 16 to deal with knee cap dislocation and ligament damage. The injury occurred, he said, while with family in Florida. Koepka said he slipped and it required his knee be put back into place.
Koepka somehow returned at the Masters, where he was clearly in distress, and missed the cut. He also missed the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship a week prior to the PGA, but he managed to get himself into contention at the major and into the final pairing with eventual winner Phil Mickelson.
Throughout all this, Koepka downplayed the issues, and he managed to have that strong stretch of tournaments that included a tie for second at the PGA, a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open, a tie for fifth at the Travelers Championship and a tie for sixth at The Open.
But it’s been nothing but a struggle in the following three months.
“I’m healthy now, so I can practice and do everything I want to do. I’ve just been grinding, man,” he said. “You go through periods where you just feel like you’ve got no control of the clubhead or you don’t know exactly where your swing is and what you’re doing. It’s just frustrating.
“I don’t think I’m playing as bad as probably I’ve let on, but the consistency’s just not there, there’s certain shots that just aren’t there. Not what I’m used to seeing I guess is a good way to put it. It’s been tough — I mean, injuries for two years. I’ve got surgery on the right knee. Left knee’s better now, but it wasn’t good for a while. You start making compensations.
“When my knee bends a little bit, I still don’t know how far it’s bending. If everybody’s ever had surgery, you still don’t know kind of where you’re at for a bit and maybe hesitant.”
Koepka wasn’t planning on playing the event in Mexico, “but I’m not going to get any better sitting at home,” he said. “Sometimes you find something, that one golf shot on the 17th hole, you hit it and you’ve got a feeling. You never know, you could rattle off a good year, a good couple of months. It might be just from that one swing.”
Apparently, Koepka was still searching for that swing in Houston.
That doesn’t mean the eight-time PGA Tour winner — he has the same number of wins as DeChambeau — won’t be up to the task Friday.
Given who he is playing against and the relative amount of animosity built up throughout the year — despite their Ryder Cup truce — you can bet the four-time major champion is treating the 12-hole exhibition nearly the same.