Brooks Koepka will arrive at Bethpage for the PGA Championship this May with two titles to defend. He holds the PGA Championship’s Wanamaker Trophy, having won the 2018 season’s final major in St. Louis last August, and he is the king of Long Island, having won the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills last June.
That speaks volumes about the golfer Koepka has become, and the one he wants to continue being. When the three-time major champion was asked how many Grand Slam titles he would ultimately like to win, he said, “Why limit it?”
He is aiming high, doubling down on his intense workout regimen. And he is thrilled that the PGA Championship is being played for the first time on Bethpage Black.
“It’s an incredibly difficult golf course, it’s hard to even think it’s a public golf course sometimes,” he said, mindful that he has played there only once, and finished 7-over par during The Barclays in 2016. “I feel bad for the guys who have to play that course day in and day out. But it’s fun to play, it really is.”
During a session with reporters at Sirius XM Radio studios Tuesday, Koepka recalled how much fun he had on the East End last June, when other golfers were groaning and all but tearing their hair out about Shinnecock Hills.
“It’s definitely one of the hardest golf courses I’ve ever played,” he said. “Obviously, I really like the place. I’d be dumb to say I didn’t. It will test your patience, it will test your mind. Anything that can really push you to the limit, to the breaking point. That’s what I enjoy. I enjoy the struggle. I feel like, especially if there’s going to be a tough test of golf, that’s right up my alley.”
He relishes the fact that Bethpage Black is on that same alley.
Already having been known as one of the physically strongest players in golf, Koepka has shown during the past two years he also is one of the mentally strongest. After he successfully defended his 2017 U.S. Open title by winning in Southampton, he held off Tiger Woods — and the torrent of noise the icon’s charge evoked — to win at Bellerive in St. Louis.
Koepka is both miffed and motivated by the fact he was not considered one of the top athletes of 2018 despite having won half of golf’s majors. But Koepka said he was a big hero on the block of his rental house in Southampton, inspiring local kids to create “Go Brooks!” placards, which he autographed after winning the Open.
He is embracing the challenge of pleasing the demanding Bethpage crowds. “New York fans are a lot of fun,” he said. “Any time you can play in front of them, and play well, it’s an added bonus.”