R3Tee 12:05PM

KOEPKA CARDS 72 AFTER MAJOR CELEBRATION, DRIVER ISSUE

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
May 26 2023
- 7 min
Koepka DC Day 1 Bynder

POTOMAC FALLS, Va. – After spending the majority of the week celebrating his fifth major victory and attending nightly playoff games for his local South Florida NHL and NBA teams, newly crowned PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka arrived at LIV Golf DC late Thursday afternoon, his schedule delayed by flight issues.

That didn’t leave him any time to explore the host course, Trump National Washington, D.C.

And then in Friday’s first round, his driver cracked. The timing was bad – but it could’ve been worse.

“Thank God it cracked now instead of coming down the stretch last week,” Koepka said.

In his first round since becoming the first LIV Golf member to win a major, Koepka shot an even-par 72 that leaves him eight shots behind the leader, Harold Varner III. He was 2-over through his first 13 holes before posting his only two birdies down the stretch. He'll start Saturday's second round tied for 28th.

Admittedly, Koepka’s expectations coming into this week were low, given the circumstances following his emotional and physically draining victory at Oak Hill. Nevertheless, he was in good spirits after Friday’s round, still buoyed by his return to the top of the golf world after undergoing knee surgery that challenged his confidence and left him wondering if he’d ever be able to succeed on golf’s biggest stages.

Celebrating major victory No. 5 was definitely different than the previous four, which came during a stretch of eight major starts between 2017-19.

“The other four kind of came so quick,” Koepka said. “They kind of came all at once. At the time looking back now, it just seemed normal – which is weird because they’re not easy to win. So when you do win them , you get more appreciative, you realize how much hard work goes into it all, especially being down in the dumps, the lows.

“I’m not sure where my game was, and to finally get that success was fantastic.”

In the days celebrating his PGA victory, Koepka attended two Florida Panthers games (both wins, with the team advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals) and one Miami Heat game (a loss). He said longtime caddie Ricky Elliott did the advance work at Trump National, so he wasn’t worried about lack of course knowledge.

“Ricky walked the golf course, so at the end of the day, he’s the one telling me where to hit it anyway,” Koepka said, “so I just relied on him.”

The cracked driver was another matter.

Koepka said he noticed the issue midway through his front nine Friday, and reported it to a tournament rules official at the sixth hole.

The LIV Golf report stated:

On hole 6 today, Brooks Koepka noticed a small crack on the top of the club head of his driver. Prior to teeing off hole 7, he spoke to the rules official, and it was determined his club was not broken ‘significantly’ in accordance with the model local rule G9, that we have in play at all LIV Golf Competitions. After teeing off hole 11, it was determined that his driver had broken more during the normal course of play, subsequently becoming visibly damaged and significantly deformed. At that point, the damaged driver met the specifications behind this model local rule to warrant the club being replaced mid-round.

Koepka said the toe of the driver eventually started to cave enough to meet the necessary degree of significance. He said hitting the driver was a “weird feeling,” like using a marshmallow.

He also thinks the rule itself – which falls under the USGA modified 4.1b rule – needs to be re-evaluated.

“Golf is a little bit behind the times in ruling,” Koepka said. “If it’s cracked, just replace it. If you damage it yourself – I get it, anger or anything like that. But I don’t know. I just think it’s weird. We know it’s broken. Everybody agreed on that. That’s just the rule. … Part of golf, I guess.”

The driver certainly cost him distance – he ranked 46th out of 48 players in driving distance average Friday – but it didn’t take him out of making a weekend move if he can return to the level he showed last week at Oak Hill.

Even if it doesn’t happen this week, Koepka has another major to look forward to after that, the U.S. Open next month at Los Angeles Country Club. Then the Open Championship in July.

And at age 33 and with five majors already in his pocket, Koepka thinks he’s just now reaching his prime. He’s halfway to meeting his major expectations.

“I’ve always said double digits,” Koepka said when asked how high he can go. “I’ve said that a few times. I don’t think it’s unreasonable.”

MORE FROM DC: Leaderboard | Where to watch | Latest videos