Column: Brooks Koepka motivated by pair of daily messages
Brooks Koepka had two sets of daily reminders for a season that PGA Tour players voted as the best.
One was his annual list of goals that he writes every Jan. 1 during quiet time on the beach, some of them golf specific, some of them about life. He tacks the list in the middle of his closet so he can’t miss it when he’s getting dressed, packing for a trip or getting his watch and wallet.
“I’m definitely ahead of schedule on certain things,” Koepka said Tuesday.
No doubt he was referring to winning two majors, which made him the obvious choice as PGA Tour player of the year. His second straight U.S. Open title made him the first back-to-back winner since Curtis Strange in 1988-89. His two-shot victory in the PGA Championship made him only the fifth player in 100 years to win in the same season the two U.S. majors held on different courses.
And he missed on a few goals.
One was to not miss a cut, which ended in Canada with a 77 in the opening round that led to a weekend off. Another was to finish in the top 10 in half of his events.
And then there was one that made him laugh just to say it.
“Stay healthy,” Koepka said.
His left wrist was bothering him last December in the Bahamas, where he finished last in an 18-man field, 21 shots out of the lead. A month of rest didn’t help. He started the new year at Kapalua and finished last in a 34-man field, 37 shots behind.
Only then did he discover a partially torn tendon that kept him out of the Masters during his four months away from golf.
That led to the second reminder.
It was a quote from Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers great ruptured his Achilles tendon. Koepka set the quote as wallpaper eight months ago so that he would see it every time he activated his phone.
“It was too long for me to quote it exactly, but it was to wake up every day and find the positive because you were one step closer to being you, and to enjoy the moments of frustration because with each step you get better and better, and to embrace those moments,” Koepka said.
“I just changed it the other day.”
Koepka leaves this weekend for the start of a new PGA Tour season, even though the year isn’t over. He is playing the CJ Cup in South Korea, followed by the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, and then his title defense at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan the weekend before Thanksgiving.
This was his one week at home, a chance to more clearly view the happy side to the year.
The ballots were sent to PGA Tour players right after the Tour Championship. In the week before the votes were due, Koepka was part of his first losing U.S. team at the Ryder Cup. One of his tee shots during the opening session struck a spectator, causing her to lose sight in her right eye. He was shaken when it happened, and then the following week when he learned the extent of the damage.
“I’m heartbroken,” he said at St. Andrews for the Dunhill Links Championship.
There also was a report that Koepka and Dustin Johnson, one of his best friends in golf, had to be separated during a skirmish at a Ryder Cup party. Koepka says they didn’t fight and that he and Johnson found the report to be “funny.”
Johnson was at The Bear’s Club when Koepka won the Jack Nicklaus Award, and they made a short video poking fun at the fight before Johnson congratulated him on winning player of the year.
“I’ve got one of these, too,” Johnson said.
“Well, this bad boy’s mine,” Koepka replied.
Getting another one will be no small feat if Koepka chooses to put that on next year’s list.
He is the sixth winner in the last six years, the longest streak since players began voting on the award in 1990. The most recent winners were Justin Thomas, Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods.
Thomas and Johnson won three times and took turns at No. 1. That doesn’t trump two majors by a guy who spotted the field some four months.
“So many guys can take over the top spot,” Koepka said. “It’s probably the best group of guys that I’ve ever seen, and they keep coming. And you throw Tiger into the mix now. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Koepka never saw a year like this coming, at least not the way it started.