Brooks Koepka won his fifth major championship at Oak Hill, beating Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler by two shots. Brooks was stellar after a first-round 72, shooting 66-66-67 to close out the tournament. With the win, Koepka moves past Rory McIlroy and into elite company as one of only 20 players with five or more majors.
After a few years filled with knee and hip injuries (and some major championship letdowns), Brooks Koepka is back. From 2017-2019 Brooks rattled off four major wins in eight starts and was the game’s alpha golfer. Fast-forward to 2023 and he’s heading into LACC off of a runner-up at the Masters and a win at the PGA.
Much can be praised about Koepka’s play, but we should also note the course and its setup played right into his hands. On a long and narrow setup featuring very thick rough, Koepka was spectacular off the tee, ranking fifth in distance and sixth in accuracy. When he did miss, Koepka’s signature strength allowed him to wield a shorter club into greens and more easily control his ball out of the thick rough. The tournament played out eerily similar to his last major win at Bethpage Black, where Brooks and the similarly-powerful Dustin Johnson separated themselves. At Oak Hill, he squared off for most of Sunday against Viktor Hovland (who duked it out admirably), while another powerful player in Scottie Scheffler snuck into second with a stellar final nine. This week offered further proof that a setup with narrow fairways, thick rough, and elevated greens is always going to overwhelmingly favor players in the mold of Koepka. This manipulative style of setup is regularly referred to as “tough” and Brooks himself says that’s when he’s at his best. Three of his five majors fit that mold (Oak Hill, Bethpage and Bellerive), and he should be the favorite at any similar setup going forward.
One off-course layer to Koepka’s win: he becomes the first major winner for the LIV Tour. He did his best to deflect any question about that significance in his press conference, but it is objectively a big deal. With LIV’s status in the golf world still very much up in the air, this will only add pressure to the ecosystem. From the moment LIV signed a few generational talents a major win was bound to happen. Koepka’s win will likely not change anything in terms of OWGR points or major championship qualifying, but whether it should change those things remains a delicate, nuanced question. LIV has problems. The bottom half of their roster is weak, and nobody really cares about the product. But LIV’s top-end talent is hard to ignore; their presence this week made the field much stronger and more compelling.
The Ryder Cup is another element, with Brooks now second in Ryder Cup points and seemingly a lock for the American squad. He’s earned that position across just two events, and he has two more major opportunities left. When asked about qualifying ahead of the PGA, Koepka remarked “If you go second (Masters), first, first, first, it would be kinda tough not to pick, right?” Looking back he basically called his shot, signaling the return of the unmistakable Koepka swagger.
In Netflix’s Full Swing we saw a vulnerable Koepka as he attempted to return from injury and wondered if he’d ever get back to his prior heights. A little more than a year after that was filmed, there’s no question the generation’s greatest major championship competitor is back. There is a new question, though: at 33, how many more majors can he win?
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.