Written by
Mike McAllister
Feb 28 2024
- 5 min

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Twice previously in his golfing career, Brooks Koepka has had a chance at a three-peat. Both times, of course, were at majors.

In 2019, Koepka attempted to become the first player since Willie Anderson in 1905 to win three straight U.S. Opens. Despite an impressive 10 under total at Pebble Beach, he finished solo second, three shots behind winner Gary Woodland.

A year later, seeking to become the first player since Walter Hagen in 1926 to win three straight PGA Championships – Hagen would add a fourth straight title in 1927 – Koepka was in prime lurking position entering the final round at TPC Harding Park, just two strokes off the lead. But three consecutive bogeys to end his front nine on Sunday sent him tumbling down the leaderboard, as he eventually finished T-29.

This week, the Smash GC captain enters LIV Golf Jeddah with another opportunity at a three-peat, having won the first two LIV Golf tournaments at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club via playoffs. While it wouldn’t make up for those previous lost major chances, it’d still be a nice accomplishment that rarely happens on any professional tour.

“It's hard to win alone,” Koepka said Wednesday, “and then to back it up is pretty tough. But to have a chance at a three-peat – I'm 0 for 2, so hopefully change it this week.”

His previous two Jeddah wins came in October at the conclusion of the LIV Golf regular seasons in 2022 and 2023. This week, Jeddah is hosting the third tournament of the year, giving the players a taste of the course conditions usually found at the PIF Saudi International, previously played at Royal Greens at this time of the year on the Asian Tour.

One of those February winners is Koepka’s new Smash teammate Graeme McDowell. Asked about the differences between October and February, G-Mac replied: “It was quite firm and crusty, I think, last October. It’s definitely a little softer, kind of a bit lusher. … The wind direction is about the only thing that doesn’t change here.”

Koepka doesn’t expect the date change to have any negative impact on his performance. He’s played Royal Greens in February, most recently in 2020 when he finished T-19. The year before, he was T-57.

“Coming here back-to-back champ feels good,” he said. “I like this golf course. I've obviously played well, so some familiarity. The golf course hasn't changed over the last six years, so I'll be ready to play this week.”

And if this week’s tournament, just like the previous two versions, is decided at the par-5 18th, well … nobody has a bigger advantage than Koepka.

He’s played the 18th a total of 11 times in his last two visits. The first six times were in 2022, including four times on Sunday – once in regulation and three more times in the playoff against then-Smash teammate Peter Uihlein. Last year, he played it five more times, including twice in his playoff against Talor Gooch, now a Smash teammate via offseason trade.

Of those seven trips in the final round on the 18th, Koepka birdied the hole every time. It’s why Gooch forced the issue on the second playoff hole last year, figuring that eagle was the only way he would beat Koepka and win the tournament.

“I kind of knew that birdies were going to drag this thing out,” said Gooch, who had entered the playoff having already clinched the season-long 2023 Individual Championship. “I knew I had already won $18 million, so I said, let's send it. I got aggressive and just overcooked it a couple yards too much and ended up losing because of it.

“But I saw the putt he made in regulation to send it to a playoff and the putt he made in the playoff, and just knowing him, he's not going to let you win it with a birdie. I was trying to make an eagle and close the thing out. Unfortunately, it didn't happen – but he likes that 18th hole out here.”

Although the 18th has served him well, Koepka wouldn’t mind seeing it less often.

“I just would like to not go to a playoff again,” Koepka said. “It would be nice to win one outright … I’m tired of that hole.”

But he’s not tired of winning, and certainly not tired of doing it at Royal Greens.

“A lot of it comes down to luck,” Koepka said. “Obviously playing good is a huge thing. This golf course, the way the wind blows, you can get out of position pretty quickly. You've just got to understand where to miss it.”

Not that Koepka misses very often at Royal Greens. Neither can he miss the podium; it’s on a stage just across the water from the 18th green. His last two visits there ended with him popping celebratory champagne bottles while fireworks lit the sky. Scenes like that are worth repeating multiple times.

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