For Brooks Koepka, picking his favorite major win is akin to choosing a favorite child.
Or at least, what he imagines the feeling is like. The 32-year-old has no children of his own, but the four glistening trophies displayed in his home are equally cherished all the same.
The matching pairs of US Open and PGA Championships cups were all scooped in an unprecedented stretch between 2017 and 2019 that saw the American become the first golfer in history to win back-to-back titles in two different majors concurrently. Before Koepka, nobody had ever won their first four majors inside two years.
It means that, of the eight PGA Tour wins he has to his name, half are major triumphs. For Koepka, it’s a ratio he is more than content with.
“Nothing quite feels the same, the majors are so different. It’s the pinnacle of our sport, it’s what you’re judged by,” Koepka told CNN.
“If you look at all the greats that have ever played this game, most people can’t tell you how many PGA Tour events or how many European Tour events this person’s won or that person’s won, but they know exactly how many majors you’ve won.
“So, to me, that’s what you’re defined by.”
‘I love it when athletes get cocky’
They are words that make for tough reading for the host of supremely talented golfers who never clinched, or are still chasing, a major win. With 11 runner-up finishes between them, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, and Rickie Fowler are just three acclaimed players for whom majors have proved elusive despite a plethora of professional wins.
Koepka has previously explained how majors are the easiest tournaments to win. It’s a characteristic candidness that he makes no apologies for. In fact, he sees it as a strength.
“I’m pretty blunt, I don’t like beating around the bush. I just say it how it is, I’ve always been that way,” he said. “I know my monotone can come off a little bit of a pain in the butt for people, but that’s how I feel.
“I love it when athletes get cocky or confident in themselves – I think that’s important. Everybody needs that, no matter what profession, no matter what you’re doing.
“If you feel you’re the best then go ahead and say it and then just go back it up.”
And Koepka has certainly backed it up. The Floridian has finished inside the top-five in 12 of his 34 career major starts, including three runner-up finishes.
Only five times has he missed the cut, and two of those came during an excruciating season last year.
Koepka’s current Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) No. 85 status is the lowest position he has held since 2014 – albeit with the caveat of his involvement in the LIV Golf Series which, due its exclusion from the OWGR weighting system, has adversely affected the ranking of players who have joined the Saudi-backed series.
Injury woes have compounded a painful fall from the summit for the former World No. 1. After tearing the patella tendon in his left knee in 2019, Koepka revealed this past October that he had “dislocated and shattered” his right knee in 2021. The injuries were so severe that the American wondered if his career was over.
His struggle to come to terms with his loss of form was laid bare in Netflix’s new fly-on-the-wall golf documentary series “Full Swing,” where Koepka admitted his slump was “the worst” he had ever suffered in his life.
“There was a lot of stuff … just in (my) personal life, had gone on. A lot of down times, man,” Koepka told CNN.
“The injuries, you look back at it and a lot of time you’re just sitting there. There’s a lot of pain, a lot of stuff you’ve just got to endure, just to make it better. It’s not always fun, not always glamorous.”
Health is wealth
Yet Koepka still carries good memories of 2022, namely his marriage to Jena Sims and a cathartic win at the final individual event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in October.
Alongside brother Chase, he also secured victory in the corresponding team event. Given Koepka had promised to buy his younger sibling a Lamborghini if they won, it put a dent in his $4 million individual winner’s earnings, but ultimately ensured a happy ending to a disappointing campaign.
“To be able to finally have some happy times, some success with all the down stuff, it was very enjoyable … something I can really, really look back on,” Koepka said.
“I could feel the trend coming upwards, (during) the middle of the year – I was getting out of the funk and just happy to be out of it now.
“Hopefully put all that stuff behind me and stay healthy for a while, that’s the goal.”
Naturally though, that isn’t Koepka’s only goal for 2023. A self-confessed “slow starter,” he is looking to be up to speed by the time The Masters rolls around in April.
Runner-up to Tiger Woods in 2019, a green jacket would put Koepka on track for what he considers to be a “good” 2023.
“Hopefully a few wins, and then a major – that’s the goal every year,” he said.