Brooks Koepka maybe as dull as ditchwater, but he has the ability to rule the golf world like Tiger Woods in his prime, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
For the second year in a row the crowd at the PGA Championship were cheering the people chasing Brooks Koepka in the race for the coveted Wanamaker trophy.
In 2018, spectators roared as Tiger rolled back the years to produce a series of astounding recovery shots at Bellerive Country Club. Woods’ gallery was also more than double the size of Koepka’s spectators in the final group.
Obviously, Woods will always enjoy the majority of the support, because of his feats in the game, while his comeback to competitive golf has been nothing short of astounding. Koepka has been seen as a subplot, despite also winning back-to-back US Opens that same year.
Koepka showed little emotion at the 72nd hole at Bellerive, as he chose to putt out instead of marking his ball and waiting for his playing competitor Adam Scott to finish off so he could bask in the glory of the cheers.
A year on, and it was chants of ‘DJ, ‘DJ, ‘DJ’ echoed around Bethpage Black, as the vocal New Yorkers put their collective weight firmly behind the chasing Dustin Johnson, who at one stage looked like he was going to wipe out the seven-shot deficit and beat Koepka.
Most of the chanting was heard during the runaway leaders’ four-hole bogey binge between the 11 and 14. There were even cheers for some of Koepka’s wayward tee shots and his struggles out of the thick rough. Some people cheered when he missed a par putt on hole and then again for his tee shot at the par-3 14th, which sailed over the green into the first cut.
But Koepka rallied bravely, and managed to keep it together.
This time around he dropped the last putt of the championship, which was followed by a big fist pump. The crowd, who had bent the knee to Johnson an hour earlier, cheered for the winner, and there wasn’t that awkward, almost reluctant applause that he received in 2018.
There is no doubt that Koepka has been the best golfer on the planet over the last couple years, winning four of the last eight Majors. That is almost like Woods when he was in his prime in the early 2000s.
At 1.83 metres and 93kg, Koepka hits it a mile off the tee, but also very straight, which is why he has managed two US Opens and two PGA Championships.
Because of his length off the tee, he hits a lot of short irons and wedges into the tricky greens, while he is a lot better with a putter than people give him credit for.
Essentially, he has the game to become a force. And he’s starting to show it.
But strangely enough, American golf fans and even a fair number of people around the world haven’t quite warmed to him. They perceive Koepka to be somewhat dull and with no real sense of humour, lacking the charisma or allure of a Woods or even a Rickie Fowler.
Johnson is probably just as ‘dull’, as he also answers questions in a Texas monotone. But New Yorkers would have rather seen ‘DJ’ lift the trophy than the Florida native.
However, Koepka doesn’t care what people think. In fact, it seems to motivate him even more.
He mentioned that the chants of ‘DJ, ‘DJ’, ‘DJ’ spurred him on during the last couple of holes on Sunday, while he also shot 63 in the first round on Thursday when everybody was cheering for his playing competitor, Woods.
When Woods left on Friday, the less-supported leader was 17 shots better off.
Koepka certainly doesn’t have the charisma of the late Arnold Palmer, but he has shown that he has the talent and the nerve to become one of the greats of the game. Four Majors before the age of the 30 is no mean feat, and nobody is going to bet against him winning another handful before the end of his career.
While quips and having a rapport with the crowd will help you make lots of fans and get your social media numbers up, sport is not a popularity contest. It’s about winning, and Koepka should rather be admired for what he has achieved on the course than the number of smiles he displays off it.