Written by
Mike McAllister
May 15 2024
- 5 MIN
Koepka PGA story image

LOUISVILLE, Ky. –  Having seen the 2023 Masters slip through his fingers after taking a two-shot lead into the final round, Brooks Koepka vowed never to let it happen again. He was a man of his word at the very next major, winning the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

He never forgot the lost opportunity at Augusta National, though, so he used the offseason and the early portion of the 2024 LIV Golf season to fine-tune his game in hopes of peaking during the second week of April. Unfortunately, he was not a factor on the leaderboard and never broke par in any round, finishing a disappointing T45. 


It was a very un-Koepka-like result in a major, and he felt the need to apologize to his team for what he described as “wasted” prep time from December to April.

“Everybody put in a lot of hard work. Dedicated a lot of time and effort,” Koepka explained. “Then for me to go out and play like that is not what I expect of myself; I don't think [it's] what they expect of me.”

It was difficult to see the positives coming out of the Masters, but perhaps there was one. It gave Koepka a chip on his shoulder, a bit of extra motivation that the great ones need occasionally to get that extra juice.

As his Smash GC teammate Graeme McDowell alludes, an angry Koepka might be the best kind of Koepka, at least as far as competitive golf is concerned. And after last month’s Masters, Koepka certainly had reason to be angry.

And while he didn’t appear outwardly angry two weeks in Singapore – especially whenever he was around wife Jena and their 9-month-old son Crew – he certainly played like he had something to prove, shooting rounds of 66-64-68 to become the first LIV Golf player to win four individual titles. It’s just the kind of momentum boost he hopes will propel him to a successful title defense, starting with Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla.

“I like the way things are trending,” he said.

During the week in Singapore, Koepka mentioned on multiple occasions how disappointed he was with his T45 at the Masters. It was almost as if he wanted to keep it front of mind, make sure that the chip stayed firmly in place.

“It’s all internal,” Koepka said when asked if he needed that motivation boost. “Sometimes I can make it external, but it’s all internal to me. Look, I don’t enjoy playing bad. It’s not fun for me.”

Something else that wasn’t fun – the “punishment workouts” he endured after the Masters. He said his fitness team of performance director Dr. Ara Suppiah, trainer Kolby (K-Wayne) Tullier and physical and rehab therapist Hamish Dickie gave him no alternative, adjusting his normal workout schedule to include more running, up-tempo sets and no rest.

“I walked in, and Ara told me that you finished 45th; you're going to get penalized,” Koepka said. “I think I had like four or five days in a row of just -- I turned white, I wanted to throw up in a few of them. But yeah, got through it.”

In essence, he had to apologize for Augusta, then he was punished for it. Consider it the necessary approach to reset his game for Valhalla.

Of course, the bigger correction might simply be something he and swing coach Claude Harmon III worked on the last two weeks. Koepka said his ball position had slipped back in his stance, a by-product of compensating for the constant windy conditions during practice sessions in South Florida.

As a result, he was struggling to see his shots go through the proper window.

“Ball position just got back. Back with everything. All the way through the bag, even with the putter. So wasn't able to see the start lines,” Koepka explained. “I like to see it start a little bit left of the target and then kind of fade it back, and it was kind of starting on target or a little bit right, and I had the both-way miss, which isn't good.”

But now he’s better. Much better. His win in Singapore showed that. His track record in majors – and especially the PGA Championship – makes him a favorite this week.

In his previous visit to Valhalla 10 years ago, it was just his second PGA Championship and sixth major start. He shot 66-67 on the weekend to tie for 15th. In the next nine years, he won three times and had three other top-5 finishes.

He doesn’t know why the PGA has been his most productive major, but he does think Valhalla has similar characteristics to Bethpage Black, where he won in 2019.

“You've got to put the ball in the fairway,” he said. “I think that's the big thing, you look at those two. Here and Bethpage, if you miss a fairway, if you have a 5-iron in, I think there's a good chance you're not reaching the green. Maybe you can if you catch a great lie, but odds are you're not.”

On Tuesday, Koepka was the host of the PGA Champion’s Dinner held at Churchill Downs. It’s a place he’s always wanted to visit, and he had plans to attend the 2020 Kentucky Derby until it was postponed due to Covid. Given his horse racing ties – he and McDowell own a hurdler named Givemefive – it turned into a particularly special evening.

Of course, even then, Koepka couldn’t help but reference golf’s other Champions Dinner during Masters week. The one for which he’s currently not invited.

“I’m not able to go to the one at Augusta yet,” Koepka said. “But this one is super cool. It’s the only one I’m able to go to.”

Maybe it was just an observation. Or maybe it was a reminder that Koepka still hasn’t accomplished everything he wants – and that if he wants to avoid more punishment workouts, he’ll need to find a way to earn the dinner invite that requires a green jacket.

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