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Brooks Koepka was texting with his buddies Saturday night when they agreed that Koepka would likely need to reach at least 20 under par to win his second Waste Management Phoenix Open title.
Turns out, 19 under was good enough.
Koepka shot 6-under 65, making three birdies and a chip-in eagle in his final six holes, to beat K.H. Lee by a shot Sunday at TPC Scottsdale. Instead of Jordan Spieth or Xander Schauffele, both 54-hole co-leaders, ending their respective win droughts, it was Koepka winning for the first time since the WGC-FedEx Invitational in July 2019.
“I always thought I had a chance,” Koepka said. “I like the way I finished that off. Hit a lot of quality golf shots down the stretch. I haven’t been in contention in God knows how long, so to actually hit golf shots like I’m accustomed to seeing when the pressure is on, it’s a good feeling.”
An even better feeling for Koepka is being healthy. It wasn’t long after his win in Memphis that Koepka had a stem-cell treatment on his left knee. Later that fall he re-injured the knee slipping on a wet cart path in South Korea. The next year-plus was filled with excruciating pain, more treatments and few bright spots.
Koepka said the injury was “a lot worse than I probably let on.” He couldn’t hit uphill shots. Bunker shots hurt. So, too, did marking his ball.
That four-time major champion? Koepka didn’t recognize that guy.
“There was a period maybe for about two months where I just questioned whether I was ever going to be the same, whether I was even going to be somewhat remotely the same golfer that I ever was,” Koepka admitted Sunday. “My knee, no matter how much work and pain I was doing with Derek [Samuel], my trainer, it just felt like it wasn’t progressing. And that’s the frustrating part, when you feel like it’s not going anywhere. But we stuck with it. Those dark places, a lot of tears, questioning yourself, and in dark places mentally. You’ve got to come out of that.
“I’ll tell you what, it takes a lot of effort just do get out of those places.”
Koepka recently declared himself “100 percent,” and after snapping a streak of three missed cuts on Friday, he’s now back in the winner’s circle.
“Always felt like I was capable of winning,” he said. “My body wasn’t letting me. Everything that was going on I wasn’t capable of doing it. So mentally, yeah, I was always there. I’m like, ‘Okay, if I put myself in somewhat of a chance, I’ll finish it.’”