"I haven’t peaked yet."
That’s a scary thought, for those were the words of Brooks Koepka a few days before he left for Asia to begin his 2018-19 season, a confident, straight forward declaration that certainly didn’t ring shallow despite his lofty achievements of late.
Take note, mind you, that he’s a three-time major champion, two of those coming this year when he successfully defended his U.S. Open title and held off Tiger Woods to lift the Wanamaker Trophy at the PGA Championship. Also take note that he’s won three of the last six majors he’s played, and he’s won three of his last 12 worldwide starts. And he said those words the day he was announced as the PGA Tour’s player of the year for the 2017-18 season despite missing four months with a wrist injury that threatened his career.
But despite a power game the envy of nearly all his peers, a progressing iron game from within 150 yards and an ever-improving short game, not to mention one of the game’s best temperaments, a short memory and soaring confidence, Koepka firmly believes there is room for improvement.
And he hasn’t changed his mind despite reaching the top of the golf world. Koepka became the world’s No. 1 player after winning his season debut at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea by four shots last week, which included a back-nine 29 en route to a final-round 64.
It was further proof of another strength of Koepka’s — his game travels. The victory was his 12th worldwide. He’s won in six countries — U.S., South Korea, Scotland, Turkey, Italy and Spain. And he’s won on three tours, the PGA Tour, European Tour and European Challenge Tour.
“I've got a good team behind me. I've got a good game plan … keep things simple with my golf swing,” Koepka, 28, said. “I'm still working on the same things with my coaches that I've worked on from day one, so they're not going to change anything. I'm not going to let them change anything.
“We’ll just keep trying to find ways to improve a little bit, whether it be course management or just understanding my game a little bit more.”
Being No. 1 won’t change him, either. While others have talked openly about the challenges of being No. 1 and the pressure inherent with the ranking — Koepka became the 23rd different player to become No. 1 since the rankings began in 1986 — the pressure of being atop the perch won’t weigh on Koepka. The man just doesn’t sweat anything, doesn’t let bad shots or unlucky bounces linger.
“I just think pressure is all what you put on yourself,” he said. “Pressure comes from fear. If you start thinking about the result or what might happen if you do something, that's the only time there's pressure. I just need to keep winning. I've gotten so much confidence off winning those majors where it's incredible every time I tee it up I feel like I really have a good chance to win whether I have my A-game or not.”
He’ll need his A-game this week in Shanghai for the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club. There’s a major championship feel with five of the top six players in the world in the field, including No. 2 Dustin Johnson and No. 3 and defending champion Justin Rose. Nineteen of the top 30 in the world are in the field.
But Koepka can’t wait to get started. He wants to stay at No. 1 but if loses the top ranking, he’ll just get after it again. He just wants to keep getting better and better and add to his expanding trophy case.
“I need to play well in the majors, that's been my key. That's been something that I've created a pattern in the majors and I just need to keep improving,” Koepka said. “I haven't figured out Augusta and the Masters yet and I'm looking forward to finally going back and trying to figure out how to really take advantage of that golf course, because I feel with my game I definitely can win there.”
Well, he’s won most everywhere else, so don’t be surprised one bit if he dons a green jacket.
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