Brooks Koepka is Broken – The Players Recap

Did Brooks Koepka cost himself Golf’s largest pay-day by going Vegan? It’s the rumor that has the golf media world white-knuckled on a Monday morning. Apparently, the 24-year-old is down 24lbs from the playing weight that won him golf’s most recent major the PGA Championship, and the last two U.S. Opens. Stunning. What could be going through the mind of Golf’s brightest young star, who’s game is so dependent on an enormous athletic advantage over his competition? Yes, I said Golf’s brightest young star.

In a recent episode of Feherty, Golf Channels best late night programming, Brooks admitted to swearing off all American red meat. Disgusting. How is the 2018 PGA Tour Player of the Year supposed to sustain his major championship dominance on a diet of chickpeas and nut butters?

After finishing the 2018 season 9th is strokes gained off the tee, Brooks has plummeted to 59th on tour as of this writing. While his strokes gained approaching the green has actually improved year over year, we are only left to assume that the slow start in 2019 is due to, by his own admission, the fact that he has lost 12 yards with the driver this year. This weekend, our hero failed to break 70, with five double bogeys on the week. Errors like that won’t get it done in any tournament… have a cheeseburger pal.

The only possible explanation for the 3x major champion sticking with this diet regimen through The Players Championship is that, despite the massive marketing efforts by the PGA Tour, The Players Championship is not a major championship in the eyes of its most recent major champion.

And it doesn’t need to be.

Sunday afternoon provided the best viewing experience so far in 2019. NBC pressed all the right buttons and laid off when they absolutely needed to. Aside from the 10,000 commercials featuring Justin Rose & some unnamed financial institution, my eyes were glued to the TV.

You already know that Rory won, so let’s stir the pot a bit before we get to him. There is a constant debate as to if a good leaderboard equates to a good golf tournament. Purists believe that a good course set up allows for a few players to totally separate themselves from the field. TPC Sawgrass will never be for the purists, but this tournament and this course provided an exceptional viewing product. Sunday afternoon showcased eight different golfers that could have cashed a two-million dollar check. Watching the decision making, and risk taking by these pros was special. Let’s get to the players…

Dustin Johnson should have won this golf tournament, and the lack of focus demonstrated in Ponte Verda Beach, Florida, has me wondering if he was thinking more about Paulina’s swimsuit than his backstroke. How can you call yourself the best golfer in the world when you miss two three-foot-long birdie putts on a Sunday afternoon. Pathetic. That’s not the end of it either, a missed five-footer for par on the fifth, a tee ball into the water on the seventh, and a missed eight-footer on the tenth left the tournament three shots out of his grasp. It’s impossible to truly call this a missed opportunity, but here I am halfway through a box of thin mints thinking about what could have been.

My favorite moment of the afternoon was a vintage Spanish assault on American waters, with the invading party self-destructing. The events took place late Sunday on the 11th hole, a gettable, dog-leg left, par-five historically yielding a 4.664 scoring average. With his tee ball finding the left-hand fairway bunker, and a poor attacking angle, Jon Rahm was -14 for the tournament, and tied for the lead. As Bobby Jones once said, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course, the space between your ears.” Jon Rahm drunk with power, crushed a mutiny from his caddy, electing to hit a 230yd bunker shot, into the wind, around the corner, and onto the green. The ball never got close, splashing into the water what must have been 30 yards short. Audible expletives followed, and they were pointed at the looper for sparking doubt in the player’s mind. The bogey result cost ram one shot on the leaderboard, but with the top players carding birdie, it was really a two-shot drop. Just another Jon Rahm ejection at a premier event, televised golf at its best.

Hat tips – I’ll try to be brief, I could spend all night writing on any one of these players.

Jim Furyk – No secret this pro’s best golf is behind him, but to go five under on Sunday took stones. Birdies on two of the last three, with aggressive lines into every green. On 17 he took an absurd line straight over the water, landing just feet onto the green, a birdie there could have got him into a playoff but it burned the edge. Equally aggressive on 18, he threw a dart to three feet setting up a birdie on the last. With Sunday pins placed on the edge of each green, surrounded by water, words can’t describe to these golf shots.

Eddie Pepperell – The best follow on golf twitter (@PepperellEddie) fired 68/66 on the weekend to finish T3. As saucy as any move I’ve seen on the stadium green, the Englishman walked in a 50’ double breaking putt on the 17th hole to tie for what was the lead at the time. The energy flowing through that crowd was intoxicating. I could not imagine standing in those shoes.

Jhonattan Vegas – Not to be outdone, Vegas stepped onto the green immediately after E.P. and sank a 70’ putt. That stadium crowd got to see something special Sunday afternoon. The man from Venezuela finished T3 and cashed out for $700k.

Tommy Fleetwood – Tommy woke up Sunday one-off the lead, and in the final group. He ground all day, finding himself three-off the lead on the 16th hole. Another par 5 that requires two perfect shots to really score – Tommy put his 206-yard approach to three feet. After making the putt, eagle got him to one back. Call the man whatever you like, except for a coward. On the 17th tee, staring down the island green, Tommy went for the win. Taking an aggressive line down the right side, where the pin is just nine feet from the water, the ball splash lands. A final round 73 results in a disappointing T5, but you can expect to hear much more from the European Ryder Cup hero this year.
The Champion – It sounds absurd, but Rory McIlroy is playing the best golf of his career. Just look to the strokes gained data, and it is undeniable. In 2019 Rory is gaining an average of 2.74 total strokes on the field, per round of golf. A better number than in 2012 (2.41), and 2014 (2.27), the last two seasons that the Northern Irishman was able to win a Major. Data from Ryan Lavner, Golf Channel. After earning pole position with a 67 and 65 in the first two rounds, McIlroy sailed through the chaos Sunday with a two-under 70, on his way to a $2mm check. This tournament was not like The Arnold Palmer Invitational, his last win, where he went unconscious with the flat stick. No, Rory played clean consistent golf for four rounds. He played his game, even when there were safer alternatives. Sunday, on the 18th, with a one-shot lead, Rory pulled the driver out of his bag. Was it necessary? No. But when you’re the best damn driver of the golf ball, IN THE ENTIRE WORLD, you pull driver.

Of note – Rory carded a double bogey on the fourth hole Sunday and bounced back. Then a bogey down the stretch on the fourteenth, and the Pro rebound again. Birdies on fifteen and sixteen got him the lead, and he kept his foot on the gas. With no sign of slowing down, it is impossible to not look forward to next month’s major tournament in Augusta, Georgia.

I’ll leave you all with a quote:
“I just want to be able to eat again” – Brooks Koepka
Long and Straight -JP

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