PGA Championship 2019: Brooks Koepka keeps it simple, stupid

Written By Bob Hille
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Brooks Koepka has a plan. The question is: Does he have a pulse?

Or maybe that exterior calm — "I'm very stone-faced, very focused" — is merely a reflection of how he excels on golf's biggest stages and enters this week's PGA Championship as the defending champion and with three major victories since 2017.

But there's also that plan at Bethpage Black this week: Avoid the rough, take advantage of the few birdie opportunities and avoid letting a bad shot morph into a really bad shot and a double-bogey.

"I kind of dummy it down and make it very simple, and I think that's what helps me," Koepka told reporters Tuesday, a keep-it-simple-stupid approach that has served the self-confessed former "hot-head" well.

He last year became only the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year, joining a pretty fair foursome: Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Jack Nicklaus (1980) and Tiger Woods (2000).

Oh, and that Woods fellow? Koepka will be grouped with him in Rounds 1 and 2 this week, along with 2018 British Open winner Francesco Molinari, forming a threesome that currently holds golf's four major titles. Woods is playing his first competitive round since his victory last month in the Masters, marking his 15th major victory and edging out ... Koepka.

"Yeah, second place, it's not fun, but at the same time you've just got to move on," Koepka said Tuesday about his T-2 at Augusta.

The irony of the 2019 Masters result isn't lost on Koepka, who held off Woods at the PGA last year at Bellerive, delaying his breakthrough major victory to this April. But asked Tuesday whether he sees it as a rivalry, despite the age difference, Koepka, 29, couldn't help but take a good-natured jab that he surely knew would get back to Woods, 43.

"Yeah, there's a little bit of an age difference there," he said with a sly smile. "He's a little bit older. But I don't see it as a rivalry. I mean, it's just golf. I mean, it's not like it's been — there's a huge history there where it's been over — like football, you've got a rivalry that's been over 20, 30 years. I mean, it's just really been the last couple years."

And what a couple of years it's been for Koepka, who since sitting out the 2018 Masters with a wrist injury has won the U.S. Open (defending his 2017 title) and the PGA Championship, sandwiched around a disappointing T-39 at the 2018 Open Championship and then a narrow miss at the 2019 Masters.

It's almost as if he's found the secret to success in golf's biggest strokeplay events. But he says it's not a secret. It's because, as he has said several times, the majors are easier to win.

Wait … what? Yes, he said Tuesday, it comes down to simple math.

"The easiest way I can break it down is there's 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat. From there, the other — you figure about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just — pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys.

"If you just hang around — I think one of the big things that I've learned over the last few years is you don't need to win it, you don't have to try to go win it. Just hang around. If you hang around, good things are going to happen."

Hang around.

Stay out of trouble. "I've started hitting this little fairway-finder a little bit more," he said.

Birdie the few gettable holes. "Take care of the par-5s," he said, "and just try to hang on on the rest of them."

So hang around and hang on. That's all it takes. Simple, which is just how Brooks Koepka likes it.

Watch Brooks Koepka's entire Tuesday press conference:

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