PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka forces himself to be patient

Reigning PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka turned in a solid performance at Valhalla on day one. He carded a 4-under 67 to sit five shots off the leader Xander Schauffele.

Koepka had to fight for strokes on the course. Things eventually paid off for him when he made an eagle and birdie on the par-5 7th and par-3 8th.

Despite seeing others around him go lower, the 3-time Wanamaker Trophy winner did not stray from his strategy.

“I thought it was solid [round]. Felt like I just kind of stayed patient through the whole thing,” Koepka said.

“It was pretty ho-hum—hit one bad drive, made bogey there on 17. Drew a pretty brutal lie in the right rough. But I felt like the only time I made birdies, they were five-footers. I wasn’t putting bad, but wasn’t hitting it exceptionally close. Yeah, felt lucky to finish the way I did.”

Every player will struggle at some point during a major championship. Hence, it is important to stay the course and remember that it is only the first day of the event.

2024 PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

“That’s what majors are all about, I think,” he said.

“You can’t win it today, but you just try to hang around and give yourself a chance or be in a good spot come Sunday… [my caddy] Ricky [Elliott] kept telling me all day stay patient, wait your turn, and I think that’s one of the things I’m exceptionally good at. You’ve got to wait your turn and catch that run like I did with an eagle-birdie.”

Last year at Oak Hill, Koepka shot an opening 2-over 72 on Thursday. Things did not look good for him, yet he remained patient.

The 5-time major winner followed up that 72 with back-to-back 66s and a 67 on Sunday to win by two shots over Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland.

While Koepka routinely waits for his turn, he knows he is impatient. So, he began watching other guys like Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell to understand how they let stuff roll off their backs.

“It would drive me nuts; I was striving for perfection,” Koepka said.

“I watched DJ at the WGC down at Doral, Trump’s place. He hit it right into the trees; I’ll never forget it. He punched it out, and it hit the curve of the cart path, and it came back to where I was, and he laughed at it.”

“Then, getting to know DJ over the years, how he thinks and how he approaches things, I think that his biggest attribute is being able to if something bad happens, just let it go; and if something good happens, you don’t want to get too high, too low, just kind of stay and ride the wave a little bit.”

Koepka has three rounds left at Valhalla Golf Club in his title defense run. He was in this spot before when he won his second straight PGA Championship in 2019.

Can he make it happen again and earn major number six?

Savannah Leigh Richardson is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. For more golf coverage, be sure to follow us @_PlayingThrough on all major social platforms. You can also follow her on Twitter @SportsGirlSL and Instagram @savannah_leigh_sports.

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