Brooks Koepka has revealed how the crowd turning against him in the USPGA Championship on Sunday helped snap him out of the slump that saw him bogey four holes in succession and thereby almost make history by conceding the biggest lead in the majors.
Koepka was six clear with eight holes remaining here at Bethpage Black but with the winds swirling and his great friend Dustin Johnson charging, he saw his advantage reduced to one in an hour. But after the galleries chanted “DJ, DJ” at Koepka when he made his bogey on the 14th, he managed to steadied the ship to fend off Johnson by two shots.
"It's New York. What do you expect when you're half-choking it away?" Koepka said with the Wanamaker Trophy by his side. "I think I kind of deserved it. You're going to rattle off four in a row and it looks like you're going to lose it ... I've been to sporting events in New York. I know how it goes. I wasn't nervous. I was in shock of what was going on. I can’t remember the last time I bogeyed four consecutive holes. And I think the crowd actually helped. It was at a perfect time because I was just thinking: "OK, all right. I've got everybody against me. Let's go."
Playing alongside Koepka, Harold Varner III was displeased with the supporters."I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke," Varner said after his own 81 "That's not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that."
Koepka’s 74 for an eight-under total proved good enough for him to win his fourth major by two shots and leapfrog Johnson as world No1. No golfer had ever before successfully defended both the US Open and the USPGA and when one considers that the 29-year-old has collected his haul in just eight major starts there can be no doubt who is the dominant force in the game.
Never said he wasn’t tough. What I said was, I wasn’t going to agree that he was the toughest player mentally on tour until he proved that he could win on a more challenging course off the tee, which he just did.— Brandel Chamblee (@chambleebrandel) May 20, 2019
However, Koepka clearly relishes criticism and plays his best golf when he is being slighted. As his lead was tumbling away, he thought of Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee who, during Masters week, suggested he was not as good as Johnson and Rory McIlroy and questioned his competitive heart. “Telling me I wasn’t tough,” Koepka said. “That p----- me off. That really p----- me off.”
Koepka now heads to next month’s US Open at Pebble Beach trying to become the first player in more than a century to win the title in three consecutive years. "Phenomenal. I think that's a good word," Koepka said. ”Yeah, it's been a hell of a run. It's been fun. I'm trying not to let it stop. It's super enjoyable and I'll just try to ride that momentum going into Pebble. I mean four of eight, I like the way that sounds."