Brooks Koepka is sitting pretty in his quest for a three-peat at the PGA Championship. Koepka opened with a 4-under 66, just one off the pace set by former PGA champion Jason Day.
Koepka is well aware of the historical significance that is at stake this week as he attempts to become the first in the stroke-play era of the PGA to win three Wanamaker trophies in a row, and the first player overall to win the same major three consecutive years since Australian Peter Thomson achieved the feat at the British Open (1954-56).
“It would be special,” Koepka said. “I think there’s, what, six guys that have ever won three in a row. Yeah, not a bad list to be on.”
Koepka hasn’t won since the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black last May and endured a stem-cell treatment to his left knee in September. Koepka has conceded that the knee is still bothering him, but he made a breakthrough with his golf swing after missing the cut at the 3M Open two weeks ago. He spent Sunday with instructor Pete Cowen, who returned from England for the first time since the coronavirus suspended the golf season in March.
“To be honest with you, it was probably the first time I think I hit 40 balls and there was a club 70 yards behind me. I chucked it and then threw one in front of me. I was pretty heated, to say the right word,” Koepka said.
One day later, he worked with Claude Harmon III and discovered that his weight distribution was out of whack.
“At impact I’m about 70 percent on my left side, and when we were looking at it, it was the opposite. It was 70 percent on the right side. We knew what we had to do was get on that left side, and it’s been good since,” he said.
Koepka, a four-time major winner, fired 62 in the opening round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational and finished tied for second last week. He led the St. Jude field in greens hit and Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. When asked to describe the progression of his game the last three weeks, Koepka said, “Getting there. It’s getting a lot better. I mean, I feel right where I should be. If you would have said last week and this week, I’d feel perfect, right where I need to be. I’m excited. I’m ready to play. But you asked for three weeks, so it’s been okay. There was a missed cut in there.”
Koepka, who started on the back nine at TPC Harding Park, started sluggishly with a bogey at the first, but he came alive with back-to-back birdies at 13 and 14 and a pair of 11-foot birdies at Nos. 16 and 18.
Koepka gave a stroke back at the first, but he tacked on two birdies on his inward nine, at the second and fourth. With his fifth straight round in the 60s, Koepka’s confidence is growing.
“Just had that one shot that I can’t get on my left side, and it usually goes right there on 1,” Koepka said. “It’s only 18 holes right now. I feel good. I feel confident. I’m excited for the next three days. I think I can definitely play a lot better, and just need to tidy a few things up, and we’ll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”