May 22, 2023

Many winners at Oak Hill, but none more than Brooks Koepka

Confidence and belief in oneself is one of the main ingredients of what makes a champion. Brooks Koepka's cockiness of four years ago was shaken and he found himself in a place he was not accustomed. Injuries had eroded his body and swing to the point that he stated, "I'm going to be honest with you, I can't compete with these guys week in and week out." I believe that was the biggest reason for him to take the guaranteed money and joined the LIV Tour. What we saw this week was a healthy confident player that probably has a few more majors to add to his impressive resume.

There were many winners this past week at the 105th PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York with Brooks as the headliner. Oak Hill's East course again proved to be fair, but brutally tough challenge for the world's best players. Weather conditions presented problems, but the course and the maintenance staff came through to seamlessly make the playing environment fair for all. The PGA of America ran a first class event with a course setup that tested the metal of each player and deserving of a major championship rating. But it was a club professional from southern Californian who stole the show. Michael Block became Walter Mitty and lived out a dream. Best of all, he showed the emotion and joy for being thrust onto this stage.

Michael Block is no novice to tournament golf. He has won the California State Open, three Southern California PGA titles and the toughest to win, the National PGA Club Professionals Championship. This was his fifth appearance in the PGA Championship, but the first time that he was able to play four rounds. But for a club professional to play "head to head" with the likes of Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy on Saturday and Sunday and hold his own was just short of unbelievable. It's one thing to shoot good scores when no one is watching, but to be plunged into the national spotlight with millions of people watching and preform like you did. That is special! So wonderful for someone to react and show the excitement and make us understand how really extraordinary the accomplished was. Block is a great representative for the 29,000 PGA golf professionals, who work in the golf industry.

Since winning his fourth Major in 2019, Brooks has had six top 7 finishes in these events. Four of them he legitimately could've won. Each time he faltered. Each time he showed he couldn't deliver in the clutch. You saw something was missing, it wasn't the old Brooks. Maybe it was the injuries that prevented him to hit certain shots in years past. At this year's Masters, Brooks was fit and healthy but played tentative and tight. Jon Rahm won the tournament, but Brooks didn't give him a fight. I didn't know what to expect going into the last round on Sunday. There were good players positioned to challenge, but only Viktor Hovland provided the main competition. The battle was worthy of a major championship, but was decided on the 16th hole when Viktor skulled his iron shot out of the sand that plugged in the side of the mound. That led to a double bogie and ultimately a four shot lead for Brooks. I wish that poor shot hadn't happen to Hovland, but those are the shots that determine major championships. I would have loved to see how both responded coming down the stretch and to see if Brooks would continue to answer. Hovland blinked first and it was over.

Scottie Scheffler finally made some putts and finished two back and tied for second. This is the second major in a row that he has putted poorly. If he had putted just average, he could have won both the Masters and PGA. However, he didn't and you have to do it all to win. If he figures it out, he will be your winner in Los Angeles next month at the US Open, where ball striking again is at a premium. Bryson DeChambeau, Rory McIlroy, Cam Smith, Patrick Cantley all had opportunities to make a run at the leader, but none were consistent with their ball striking. Brooks was unswerving in his approach to attacking the golf course. He stayed the course, which lead to his victory.

Brooks Koepka's victory was also a win for the LIV Tour. But Brooks didn't play up the fact that he plays on a different tour. He wore Nike apparel with no reference to the LIV Tour. He didn't talk about LIV unless asked directly. Other LIV players wore shirts and hats identifying their LIV Tour team logos. Brooks did not. Brooks stated that this was a victory for him. Brooks' image has always be self-centered, brash, and ego driven, which has rubbed many people the wrong way and made him less liked. But this was a Brooks Koepka victory and he earned it, worked hard for it, and he should take full credit for it. Good work and well done!


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