Koepka Eyeing Historic Win at TPC Harding Park
When it comes to major championships, history is hard to come by.
Brooks Koepka knows this all too well. Last year at the PGA Championship he carved out a chapter of his own, becoming the first to successfully defend both the Wanamaker Trophy and a U.S. Open. Since the PGA Championship switched to stroke play in 1958, only two players have won it two years in a row: Koepka and Tiger Woods.
But the chance for a three-peat? That would be truly rarified air.
Only one man has won three consecutive PGAs, and that was back in 1924-27 when Walter Hagen captured four straight match-play titles. But that was in a different format and in a different day than what Koepka will face at TPC Harding Park.
The two-time defending champ might have a leg up on his historic quest given that, well, he was in this same position less than a year ago. Koepka appeared unfazed by the task heading into last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a three-peat on the line.
“I know the odds are stacked up probably even more against me now to go three in a row than to back it up,” Koepka said in June.
“IT’S HARD TO WIN THE SAME EVENT THREE TIMES IN A ROW. I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY TIMES IT’S EVEN BEEN DONE ON THE PGA TOUR, LET ALONE A MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP.”
It turns out that Koepka did his homework. Across all PGA Tour events, there hasn’t been a three-peat since Steve Stricker dominated the John Deere Classic from 2009-11. Only nine men have pulled off the feat since World War II. But that fact didn’t slow down Koepka last year in California, where his title defense ended in a second-place finish.
He’ll be back on the West Coast this spring, again in search of history. Having tamed a Midwest venue in Bellerive two years ago, holding off Tiger Woods, and having conquered the brawny Black Course on the East Coast last year in memorable fashion, it’s only fitting that he head west in an effort to round out the trifecta.
Chances are good that, come Sunday, Koepka’s name will still be plastered across the leaderboards as TPC Harding Park hosts a major for the first time. His performance in the biggest events has been well-documented, a trend that continues to amaze many of his peers. His comments last year in the media center at Bethpage, where Koepka explained in scientific terms how the title chances for a majority of the field can be dismissed without a second thought, seemed brash – right up until he grabbed the tournament by the throat and carried a seven-shot lead into the final round.
The biggest events bring out the best in Koepka, who only last week was supplanted by Rory McIlroy as world No. 1 for the first time since his win at Bethpage. That was a byproduct of Koepka’s recent knee injury as much as the consistent play of McIlroy, and it appears the two men are poised for a battle that could extend all the way to TPC Harding Park and beyond.
Three in a row won’t come easily, especially against the strongest field in golf. But Koepka has shown time and again an ability to rise to the occasion, as the toughest tests and biggest challenges seemingly tap into an extra reserve of talent and motivation he keeps at the ready.
History is on the line this May in San Francisco. Doubt the two-time defending champ at your own peril.