Kopeka returns to winner’s circle at Phoenix Open
Brooks Koepka certainly put on a stunning closing show of determination and skill in securing his one stroke victory over fellow countryman Xander Schauffele and South Korea’s Kyoung-Hoon Lee at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Starting the final round five strokes behind Jordan Spieth and Schauffele, Koepka shot a 6-under 65 to finish at 19-under to claim the title in a nail-biting closer which included two eagles and a chip-in from 60 metres on the short par-4 17th hole.
With 10 players tied for, or within one, of the lead with just a few holes to play in the tournament, Koepka landed a majestic fairway wood just short and left of the green on the 305 metre 17th and then proceeded to hole his chip for eagle to break away from the pack.
It was the four-time major champion’s first victory in 18 months. Koepka also won this title in 2015 at TPC Scottsdale for the first of his eight PGA Tour titles to date.
“This is probably my favourite win to date, just because of everything I’ve had to go through,” said Koepka.
WITB: Brooks Koepka
- Titleist Pro V1x Golf Ball
- TaylorMade SIM2 Driver (10.5º)
- TaylorMade M2 Tour HL 3W (16.5º)
- Nike Vapor Pro (3), Srixon ZX7 (4-PW)
- Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (52º, 56º)
- Titleist Vokey SM5 TVD (60º)
- Scotty Cameron T10 Select Newport 2 Putter
“I live for those moments where you’ve got to close, you got to hit some quality shots, quality putts. A lot of hard work has gone into this, and I’m actually really proud of myself.”
Koepka has had to deal with a left knee injury for much of the last year and a half, yet this victory proved he’s close to back to full fitness following a string of missed cuts this season and a fall from dominance on the PGA Tour where between 2017-19 he won over six times including back-to-back US Opens and PGA Championships.
Brooks Koepka (Credit: PGA Tour)
“It’s been a wild ride for the last year and a half and very frustrating,” said Koepka. “I’ve had moments where I didn’t know if I was going to be the same, if I could even come back.”
Spieth and Schauffele had struggled from the start, with Spieth bogeying the first hole. They each had two bogeys on the front nine, with Schauffele making the only birdie between the two on the front side on No. 9.
The pair then each drove into the water on 17 to end their chances, then both birdied 18 with Spieth closing with a 72 and Schauffele firing a 71.
Matt Jones was the sole Australian playing the weekend closing with a 68 to share 30th position. Jason Day the only other Aussie playing in the tournament missed the cut by two shots after opening rounds of 71-70.
Steve Stricker, the 53-year-old US Ryder Cup captain who was trying to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour, closed with a 67 to tie for fourth alongside Spieth and Carlos Ortiz at 17-under.
For Spieth, who had his chances as this tournament, it was his best result since his T3 at the 2019 PGA Championship and may well signal his return to the heights of career that included being World No.1 just five years ago.