Three years ago, Brooks Koepka had just finished up a stellar career at Florida State that saw him win three times and earn All-American honors. He then decided to go the road less traveled for top golfers this country and try and work his way up the ranks in Europe instead of joining the Web.com Tour stateside.
At the time, Europe and the Challenge Tour (Europe’s equivalence to the Web.com Tour) was the only place he could get guaranteed starts. So he packed his bags and went. He finally got his ticket to the PGA Tour this year and did it by grinding it out the hard way all over the world. He won four times on the Challenge Tour in 2012 and 2013: twice in Spain, once in Italy, and once in Scotland. That earned him a spot on the European Tour, where he won on that tour for the first time in November when he took down the Turkish Airlines Open.
His goal was always to get back stateside though and dominate on the PGA Tour like he did when he was in college. He took advantage of his limited sponsors exemptions on Tour and after a top five finish at the U.S Open, had punched his ticket to the PGA Tour in 2015.
It’s no surprise then that in his first two starts on Tour, Koepka recorded top 10 finishes. It’s also no surprise that Kopeka was going to win on Tour in 2015. With the way the Palm Beach Gardens resident had been playing, it was not a matter of if, but a matter of when. What came as a little bit of a surprise though, was that it came in just his third event, months after a long layoff, and at a tournament, The Waste Management Phoenix Open, that he had never played in before.
But, like so may times before, the 24 year old continues to prove that you should never count him out, no matter what country he is playing in.
Koepka won for the sixth time as a professional Sunday, with those wins coming in four different countries. This one was his first in his native country though, and as a result, he won’t have to worry about where his next start will come from for a long time.
In addition to the two year exemption that comes from the win and the winners check for just over $1 million, he moves into the top 20 in the world, meaning that he will easily qualify for all four majors as well as all the World Golf Championship events. That’s all just the tip of the iceberg for the goals that Koepka has set for himself though.
“I wanted to come out this year, get a win, make the Presidents Cup team and further down the road make the Ryder Cup,” said Koepka, who finished fourth at last year’s U.S. Open. “I don’t see why I can’t. I feel like my game is ready for that. I (am) ready for majors and to win them.”
He can check the win off his list thanks in large part to a Sunday 66 that saw him start the day three shots back of 54 hole leader Martin Laird. He dropped as far as four shots back at one point but birdies on 6 and 7 kept him in contention. The biggest shot of the day for Koepka didn’t come with the driver or an iron, but with the putter.
On the green in two on the par 5 15th, Koepka had a 50 footer for eagle that would give him a one shot lead, even if it was just momentarily. Calm, cool, and collected he proceeded to hole the eagle putt and never look back.
”I left every long putt short today,” Koepka said. ”I said to my caddie, ‘I’m finally going to get this one there.”’
Kopeka played par golf over the last three holes, holding off playing partners Laird and Matsuyama for the one shot victory over a group that on top of Matsuyama, also included Ryan Palmer and Bubba Watson, who seems to be the king of runner up finishes in Phoenix.
”It’s unbelievable,” said Koepka, who finished at 15-under 269. ”I didn’t think I would work my way up this quickly, but playing the Challenge and European tours led to this. And especially the failure I’ve had. I can’t tell you how much I learned from that.”
Koepka will now head to San Diego and Torrey Pines for the Farmers Insurance Open. It will no doubt be one of the shortest trips of his career. It will also come with the new status: PGA Tour winner.
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