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Entries in Brooks Koepka (4)

8:23PM

For Tiger, was it a last hurrah or a hint of the future?

By Art Spander

ST. LOUIS — Who knows where it goes from here? In a way, who cares? This might have been a last, wonderful hurrah for Tiger Woods, the PGA Championship in the humidity and enthusiasm of Middle America.

Or maybe it was a hint about a future that, at moments, could make us remember his past.

But it doesn’t matter. What does matter, for the game and for the golfer, is that for a week there were reminders of the way it used to be.

And a year ago, who dared imagine that would be possible? Not even Tiger.

Three weeks ago, he stirred emotions by working his way into the lead on the final day of the British Open before slipping to sixth, which was impressive, all things considered.

Then, here at Bellerive, green, lush and water-logged, so different from the links in Scotland, Woods played an even better major.

He shot 64 on Sunday, the final round of the 100th PGA Championship, and had the enormous crowd engaged and hopeful — and, of course, cheering loudly. The roar after a Tiger birdie rumbled across the fairways almost to the banks of the Mississippi.

The tournament in the end would belong to Brooks Koepka, who with a second major in a single calendar year, after the U.S. Open, and a third major overall, including consecutive Opens, right now may be the best golfer on the globe.

He has the long game and, perhaps more importantly, the short game and the poise. Koepka finished with a 4-under-par 66 for a 16-under total of 264, to win by two shots over, yes, Tiger Woods. Welcome to 2000.

Woods closed with a 6-under-par 64. He was holing putts and pumping his fist — and pumping up the fans. He dropped a long one at 18. He was a contender. He finished ahead of Adam Scott, Justin Thomas, British Open winner Francesco Molinari and Jordan Spieth, who in our tendency to exaggerate we’ve called the next Tiger Woods.

Ahead of everyone except Koepka.

But it was the former and current Tiger Woods who made this PGA thrilling. And surprising.

Woods was a question after the two back surgeries, the second to fuse a part of his spine. He needed to change his swing. He was 43, coming off months of inactivity and rehabilitation.

“At the beginning of the year, if you would say, yeah, I have a legitimate chance to win the last two major championships,” Woods conceded, “with what swing? I didn’t have a swing at the time. I had no speed. I didn’t have a short game. My putting was OK.

“But God, I hadn’t played in two years, so it’s been a hell of a process for sure.”

There’s a sporting axiom that greatness is forever. Age and injury may have an effect on performance, but a champion is always a champion. Tiger, we found out in the last few weeks, is still Tiger. In the hunt, he’s a factor.

What is different is this Tiger smiles and slaps hands with spectators, as he did walking up the ramp from the 18th green. We didn’t know if he would be back. He didn’t know. They say you don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it.

What Woods had during the PGA, especially the captivating last round, was a belief that this is where he belonged, high on the leader board, and striding purposely toward a goal that so many doubted ever would be attainable. It was fun. For him. For everyone.

“Oh, you could hear them,” Woods said of the fans. “They were loud, and they stayed around. It’s been incredible with the positiveness. They wanted to see some good golf, and we produced some good golf, I think, as a whole. The energy was incredible.”

It flowed from Brooks Koepka, from Adam Scott and most of all from Tiger Woods.

“I’m in unchartered territory,” said Tiger about his game, “because no one’s ever had a fused spine hitting it like I’m hitting it. I’m very pleased at what I’ve done so far. Going from where I’ve come to now in the last year, it’s been pretty cool.”

As they used to yell, you’re the man.

3:34PM

Koepka still trying to prove he belongs

By Art Spander

ST. LOUIS — Yes, Brooks Koepka has an attitude. He also has a game, and in sports — maybe in life — that’s a wicked combination. You’re determined to prove you belong. You have the skill to show that you do belong.

Koepka is a back-to-back U.S. Open champion, arguably one of the three or four best golfers in the world. But it isn’t so much what he’s done that keeps him pushing, but what was done to him.

“I can think of plenty of people along the way telling me I’d be nothing," said Koepka the other day, “working at McDonald’s, doing things like that. The whole time, you’re just trying to prove them wrong.”

Which he has done overwhelmingly.

After matching the lowest round ever at a PGA Championship, a bogey-free, 7-under-par 63 on Friday at Bellerive Country Club, Koepka is high on the leader board with half the tournament remaining.

“I’m just very much in the zone,” he said. “Very disciplined.”

And very driven, which every athlete needs to be.

“Growing up, in college,” said Koepka, “through right when you turn pro, there’s always people who are going to doubt you, say you can’t do it. Even know you’re just trying to prove everybody wrong. That’s the way I view it.”

The way he was viewed by some others was as a kid with a temper. At Florida State, he slammed more than one club to the turf. But all that intensity kept him from surrendering when things went wrong, as they often do in golf.

It’s a maddening game, one without teammates. The frustration builds. On Friday, while Koepka was shooting his 63, Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters winner, shot 78, 15 shots higher. That’s why golfers, no matter if they are touring pros or hackers, never are more confident than the next shot.

Koepka, 28, became a golfer truly by accident. A car crash when he was a boy kept him from playing contact sports. At 6 feet tall and 186 pounds, he looks like an athlete and would prefer to be hitting baseballs over fences than golf balls down fairways. The former major leaguer Dick Groat is a great uncle.

“If I could do it again, I’d play baseball — 100 percent no doubt,” he told Jaime Diaz of Golf Digest. Then again, he said that before winning his first U.S. Open at Erin Hills in June 2017.

Koepka failed in his first attempt to qualify for the PGA Tour. Then, instead of going the usual route, the secondary Dot.com Tour, triple-A minors you might say, he joined the European Tour. It was a grind, in unfamiliar locations with different foods, but it helped toughen Koepka.

An injured wrist kept Koepka out of the Masters, and all golf, this past spring. He said all he could do was sit on the bed and watch others play on TV.

“It was disappointing,” he said, “but when you take four months off, you really appreciate being able to play, and you’re eager to get back. I kind of fell back in love with the game. I just missed competing. It can get a little bit lonely when you’re just sitting on the couch.”

Since returning from Europe and joining the PGA Tour in 2012, Koepka has won only three times. Indeed two of the wins were in the U.S. Open, but you’d presume a player with his skill and grit would have several more.

“I’m not thinking about that when I’m out there,” Koepka insisted. ”I’m just trying to win this week. That’s the thing I’m worried about, winning this week and taking that and moving towards the playoffs.”

Halfway through the 100th PGA Championship, you like his chances. And no, to answer your question, he never did work at McDonald’s.

4:56PM

Newsday (N.Y.): British Open: Americans Jordan Spieth, Brooks Kopeka, Matt Kuchar lead after first day

By Art Spander
Special to Newsday

SOUTHPORT, England — This first round of the 146th British Open was less about weather Thursday, although there was a wee bit of rain and considerable wind, than it was about names, big names.

Three of the biggest, Americans Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar, each shot a five-under par 65 at Royal Birkdale to top an impressive leaderboard.

Read the full story here.

Copyright © 2017 Newsday. All rights reserved.

8:58PM

S.F. Examiner: Brooks Koepka claims first major title with US Open win

By Art Spander
San Francisco Examiner

ERIN, WIS. — It wasn’t the Olympic Club or Pebble Beach, sites of history. It was Erin Hills, derisively nicknamed “Errant Hills.” But if the course wasn’t memorable, a place scraped from Wisconsin pastureland, the game Brooks Koepka played there definitely was.

A 27-year-old who literally became a golfer by accident — a car crash when he was a boy kept him from playing contact sports — Koepka on Sunday won America’s golfing championship, the U.S. Open, in a record-tying performance.

Read the full story here.

©2017 The San Francisco Examiner