For the globetrotting Brooks Koepka, victory – and the membership to the PGA Tour that go along with it – will have to wait at least another week.
After he turned professional in 2012 out of Florida State University, Koepka has spent the last 16 months primarily playing in Europe, with stops in Asia and Africa to boot. A three-time winner on the Challenge Tour, Koepka started the year with no status on any tour, but earned both Challenge and European Tour membership with his success overseas. He even played in this year’s Open Championship and PGA Championship, making the cut in the latter event.
Through three rounds at the Frys.Com Open at CordeValle, it looked as though Koepka might repeat (recent) history, earning his Tour card with a victory on American soil much like Jordan Spieth did earlier this year. When he faltered a bit, though, Jimmy Walker was the one who left with the title.
For the last two days, at least, Koepka looked as though he would march to the title in California. What happened?
For starters, it’s actually more about what didn’t happen. Through the first three rounds, Koepka was absolutely putting the lights out at CordeValle. On Friday, when he shot 64 to take the mid-tournament lead, he made three bogeys but overcame them with an amazing eight birdies and an eagle. Even when he missed some fairways or greens in regulation, his white-hot putter kept him in contention.
Sunday, however, was a different story. Even though Koepka finished the tournament ranked fifth in strokes gained-putting, the final round was his first with a negative number in that category, at -0.681. His four bogeys weren’t out of the ordinary, but with only three birdies leading to a one-over round of 72, he just couldn’t keep it up forever.
On the plus side, while he didn’t close it out the way he would have liked, Koepka’s third-place tie does earn him an exemption into next week’s Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open, where he’ll have another shot at the card.
It took Spieth – a phenom in every sense of the word – six months of week-in and week-out play on Tour to earn the elusive victory. Koepka certainly appears to have the talent to make it happen as well, and I have no doubt that he’ll get it done when the timing is right.