Rozner: Is Koepka the next Tiger Woods?

  • Brooks Koepka reacts after sinking a putt on the 18th green to win the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

    Brooks Koepka reacts after sinking a putt on the 18th green to win the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

  • Brooks Koepka reacts after putting on the third green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

    Brooks Koepka reacts after putting on the third green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 19, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

 
 
Updated 5/19/2019 7:07 PM

Golf has been trying to find the next Tiger Woods for 20 years.

The reality is, it's never going to happen, but that hasn't stopped Brooks Koepka from doing a decent impression of the GOAT.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

After holding off Dustin Johnson and winning a second straight PGA Championship on Sunday, Koepka trails the greatest of all time by 11 major wins and 75 PGA Tour victories, but Koepka is -- right now -- playing like Woods at his best.

When Tiger was tearing apart the PGA Tour, there was no part of the game he couldn't dominate. And at this moment, there is no flaw in Koepka's game. His bag contains every shot.

It's quite stunning.

So it's not a surprise that Koepka won another major, at least not if you read last week's column, but the surprise was that he blew away the field the first three days on a U.S. Open course with U.S. Open scoring.

Even Sunday as he struggled to get it in the house under horrible conditions, Koepka never broke.

So if you're keeping score at home, that's 4 wins in his last eight major starts -- 3 in his last five -- and in the last 60 years only 10 players have won more majors than Koepka.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And those names are golf royalty.

He's won the last two PGAs and last two U.S. Opens, the first player ever -- yes, ever -- to hold back-to-back titles in two majors simultaneously.

Math is not exactly a strong suit here, but that does suggest he can do things others cannot.

"Everybody keeps asking what I'm doing differently," Koepka said. "I'm more focused than anybody out there. My focus probably goes up tenfold of what it does in a (regular) Tour event."

Shooting 25-under par in Hawaii or Florida just doesn't hold much interest for him, which is why he has 4 major victories and only 2 otherwise.

"There's just something about playing a tough golf course," Koepka said. "I'm not the best at the birdie-fest. I'm better if it's going to play very difficult and even-par. I like that. Those are my kind of golf courses, where it's very stressful to play."

The 29-year-old is now the No. 1 player in the world and at the peak of his considerable powers. He figures to threaten double digits over the next decade if he continues to focus entirely on major championships.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I enjoy that," Koepka said. "That's what I live for."

Is reaching 10 majors realistic? Right now, of course, it feels very possible, but keep in mind that only Jack Nicklaus (18), Woods (15) and Walter Hagen (11) have reached 10, and only Ben Hogan (9), Gary Player (9) and Tom Watson (8) have snagged as many as 8.

It's just not as easy as Koepka has made it look the last two years.

But we have seen these great runs in the last decade when Woods was absent or far from the caliber of the Woods who destroyed fields from 1997-2008.

Koepka is just the latest.

Rory McIlroy was crowned the "next Tiger Woods" when he won four majors over four years, starting with the U.S. Open in 2011 and concluding with the PGA in 2014.

McIlroy is winless in the last 18 majors and has failed to win the career grand slam in the last five Masters.

Jordan Spieth won the Masters and the U.S. Open in 2015, and the Open Championship in 2017, but he's now faltered in three straight PGAs as he also attempts to complete the career grand slam.

Spieth was also to be the next Woods, anointed before his collapse at Augusta in 2016.

Koepka is on one of those runs now and there appears to be no end in sight, though it has been said many times, many ways about so many before him.

It's just difficult to maintain that level of greatness over an extended period and especially because the Tiger Wave has arrived -- Koepka, Spieth and McIlroy are all part of it -- and the depth of talent is the best it has been in history.

Koepka is perfect for PGAs and U.S. Opens, the ability to hit it long and straight, a brilliant short game and with the mental toughness necessary to make big putts at the most crucial moments.

He displayed it again late Sunday.

And though his best finish at the Open is a T-6, he has 5 wins in Europe -- 4 on the Challenge Tour. It's ridiculous to rule him out of that conversation.

His performance at the Masters this year suggests there's no course that doesn't suit him.

Next up is Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open, which does not give the bombers a big advantage and brings many more players into the mix, not to mention Woods -- who won the U.S. Open at Pebble by 15 shots in 2000 -- and Johnson, who should have won the U.S. Open at Pebble in 2010.

Graeme McDowell won that year at even-par, a reminder that even the short hitters can work their way around that course without the length of a Koepka, Johnson or McIlroy.

Three-metals and 2-irons will be very popular Father's Day weekend on Monterey Peninsula.

Last year, Koepka became the first to go back-to-back at the U.S. Open since Curtis Strange (1988-89), and he wants to be the first to win three straight since Willie Anderson in 1905.

History suggests it's unlikely, but go ahead and tell Brooks Koepka there's something he can't do.

It might be all he needs to do it again.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.