He’s won 4 out of the last 8 majors. Back-to-back PGA Champion. Back-to-back US Open Champion. And now he’s world #1. He’s big. He’s strong. He has perfect teeth. And contrary to the claims of a clown disguising himself as a commentator, he’s quite tough.
Everybody wants to be like him. Or at least hit as far as him. Experts have sprung up all over social media. You need to copy this, copy that. This is why he’s so good. Etc, etc.
Take it from me. Unless you have his physical gifts, don’t even bother trying to emulate his technique. However there is one part of his game that everyone should copy. And the good news is it doesn’t require muscles. Or even talent.
In case you missed the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship, things got interesting for a brief moment. Koepka, who started the day seven strokes ahead of Dustin Johnson, bogeyed 11, 12, 13 and 14 to drop to -9. DJ who was two groups ahead of Koepka, birdied the 15th to get to -8, just one stroke off Koepka.
As the gallery started chanting “DJ! DJ! DJ!”, I started thinking about the 1996 Masters. Greg Norman held a 7-shot lead over Nick Faldo after 54 holes. Faldo eventually won it by 6 shots. Will Koepka suffer the same fate as Norman?
With 190 yards to the flag on the 16th hole, DJ hit his second shot from the fairway into thick rough at the back of the green.
As you can see, the flag was cut very close to the back edge. Which meant he didn’t have a lot of green to work with. He ended up with a bogey.
In contrast, Koepka hit his second shot from roughly the same spot on the 16th fairway to the fat side of the green, short and left of the flag.
The 16th hole wasn’t the only place where DJ’s course management was questionable. He also shortsided himself on the 11th, which led to a bogey.
A day before, he bogeyed the 18th hole. Again, shortsided. A par would have put him together with Koepka in the final group.
Am I saying you should never fire at the flag? It really depends on the context. On the 72nd hole, Koepka needed a bogey to win and yet he went for the flag on his third shot after playing out from the long grass. Although the flag was cut very close to the front right bunker, he only had 68 yards to go. Given his skills, it was justifiable.
On the par 3 17th, DJ missed the green to the right. Although that appears to be the fat side, there was a ridge that ran across the middle of the green. Even if DJ’s ball stayed on the green, it would have been a difficult two-putt.
On that same hole, Koepka hit his ball left of the flag, which I felt was a better position. (Although he did make it interesting by three-putting for a bogey.)
The point I’m trying to make is that Koepka won not because he overpowered the course like what some people are suggesting. He did it with a combination of solid iron play and old school course management.
DJ and Koepka hit the same amount of fairways over 4 days. But DJ’s driving average for the week was 335.8 – more than 20 yards longer than Koepka’s 313.2! What’s interesting is that when Koepka shot a 7-under 63 on the first day, his driving distance was only 290.3 yards.
DJ also putted better in the tournament than Koepka by roughly half a stroke a day (Strokes Gained – Putting). Imagine how boring it would’ve been if Koepka actually putted well.
Koepka had a slight edge in Greens in Regulation… 73.6% against DJ’s 68.06%. But the area where Koepka really shined is he never hit an approach shot that ended on the short side the whole week… except for one hole, which he parred.
Don’t believe me? You can go ahead and check out the PGA Tour’s website yourself.