Brooks Koepka had once looked like a golfer who simply could not lose. With every crunching drive and audacious putt, he brought himself into contention in so many major championships, winning four between 2017 and 2019. There was something about Koepka’s game and attitude that was so well suited to the majors – a unique ability to shut out the clamor and pressure surrounding golf’s biggest events and focus on his own game.
2020 has been an entirely different story, as those shining qualities have deserted Koepka when it’s mattered most. He’s been dogged by persistent injuries this year, and the enforced break as a result of the coronavirus pandemic won’t have helped him in terms of focusing his efforts on getting some more tournament wins.
The latest setback is a body blow for the American, as he has been forced to withdraw from the upcoming US Open due to injury. It’s a tough one to take for the four-time major champion, who won the US Open twice consecutively in 2017 and 2018, and finished joint-second last year as Gary Woodland emerged victorious at Pebble Beach. The 2020 edition at Winged Foot was a chance for Koepka to get back on track physically and mentally, but sadly he will not get the chance to tee off.
It’s sad to see any golfer lose his winning instincts through injury, and Koepka’s 2020 season has been a tale of missed cuts, average finishes, and occasional moments of supreme quality. A second-place finish at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational is his best result, with Koepka managing a measly top 29 finish at the first major of the year, the PGA Championship.
With Koepka having been something of an outside bet in the odds on golf US Open, the top competitors in golf may be licking their lips that one of the sport’s big names has fallen by the wayside. The likes of Jon Rahm and Dustin Johnson will certainly fancy the job having been in good form since golf’s restart post-pandemic, and even Rory McIlroy might get a boost that this could be the time to win his first major victory since 2014.
The competitive nature of golf at an elite level means that tournament favorites often fall away and it is the more unlikely contenders that rise to the top – you only need to look at Collin Morikawa’s victory at the PGA Championship earlier this year to know that. Koepka, who has not been at the peak of his powers this year, may well have fancied a good run at the US Open, but sadly it’s not to be.
For now, the focus must be on rebuilding his fitness and his game. In this year of disruptions and uncertain situations, perhaps it’s not a bad thing to take some time to recover properly, and Koepka can now gear his efforts towards being in peak physical and mental condition for the Masters next month. But you can bet that the current world number eight will be devastated at missing out on a tournament that he has enjoyed so much success in the past.