Considering the injury-interrupted beginning to his season, Brooks Koepka probably couldn’t have predicted how well his year would pan out.
Sidelined four months with a wrist injury that kept him out of the Masters, the 28-year-old Floridian overcame his early-season adversity to successfully defend his U.S. Open title at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in June. Two months later, he claimed his third major championship by holding off 14-time major champion Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship.
Those two victories led to him being named PGA Tour Player of the Year, an honor that came a week before another career-defining moment for the long-hitting Koepka.
On Sunday in the Republic of Korea, Koepka vaulted to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) with his four-stroke victory at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. Koepka, who has three victories in 11 starts in 2018, joined 2013 U.S. Open champion Justin Rose and Justin Thomas as the third first-timer to reach the top spot in the OWGR this year. It’s the first time that has happened since 1997, when two-time U.S. Open champion Ernie Els, Tom Lehman and Woods each rose to No. 1.
“To be No. 1 is something I’ve dreamed of as a kid,” said Koepka, who displaced good friend and 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson. “I don’t think this one is going to sink in.”
Just like he did down the stretch at Shinnecock Hills when he held off Johnson – and during the final round of the PGA at Bellerive against Woods and Adam Scott – Koepka seemed impervious to the pressure. despite He repelled a late push by Gary Woodland, who started the day five behind but pulled even with Koepka after making six birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
Even as Woodland kept applying the pressure, Koepka answered with birdies on 15 and 16, the latter coming on a remarkable chip-in from 70 feet. Then on 18, Koepka punctuated his second-nine 29 – and final-round 64 – with a 25-foot eagle.
“Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him,” said Woodland.
Koepka now owns 12 worldwide victories, four of which came early in his career on the European Challenge Tour. He is scheduled to play on the final stop of the PGA Tour’s Asian fall swing this week, the WGC-HSBC Champions in the People’s Republic of China.
“I'm so excited right now, you have no idea,” said Koepka. “I can't wait to go play again.”