The Koepka Conundrum

One of the nuggets I tackled this week is something I continue to come back to when it comes to my golf geekdom… Brooks Koepka.

The Number One player in the world has arrived there because of how he plays in majors, and that’s about it. Yes, he won a WGC event last year. But his ratio of major wins to regular wins is far closer to Angel Cabrera than Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or most players who have the consistency to be considered the top players of the game.

This is not a knock on Brooks. Please don’t add this to the pyre of slights he uses to fuel motivation. It is a psychological exercise in motivation. That somebody is able to channel world-class ability on the largest, most pressure-packed stages is beyond fascinating. It thens opens up only two possible solutions to the query:

  • Brooks Koepka’s ability to win majors is a fluke
  • Brooks Koepka isn’t motivated in non-major events

I explored those numbers a bit on #MathMondays above, but here is the full breakdown…

Since his win at the 2017 U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka has played 10 major championships, and this is his record: 1, T6, T13, 1, T39, 1, T2, 1, 2, T4

Win % = 40%
Top 2% = 60%
Top 10% = 80%
SG: Total = +2.957 

If you were to take that final number over the course of a season, only Tiger Woods has ever had a +3.000 or greater year. Koepka is nearly there – in a decent sample size – in majors alone. Now, the other side of the Brooks’ coin:

All Other Tournaments Since the 2017 U.S. Open (43 in total)

Win % = 7%
Top 2% = 12%
Top 10% = 30%
SG: Total = +0.747

The last number again would have ranked right around 40th on Tour last season, just better than Vaughn Taylor. When it is not a major, Brooks Koepka is Vaughn Taylor.

Koepka is 2.21 strokes better, per round – nearly 9 strokes better in 4 rounds – in majors.

For comparison’s sake, we look at, arguably, the best season for Tiger Woods in the Shotlink era. In 2006, Tiger won 9 times in 19 starts, including 2 majors.

Win % = 47%
Top 2% = 63%

So, you could say Tiger’s results in 2006 mirror those of Koepka in majors over the last 3ish seasons. What was Woods’ SG: Total that year?

SG: Total in majors = +3.18
SG: Total in non-majors = +3.78

Tiger was slightly better than Koepka in terms of strength in majors, but he was BETTER than the field in all other events. This shouldn’t be a surprise. He was the dominant player against the BEST fields in golf, he should be better against weaker fields. This just isn’t the case for Koepka today.

Again, this isn’t a criticism of Koepka. He understands that value, legacy and strength in golf Is measured unfairly by results in major championships. In his defense, he has had injuries that have hurt his numbers in non-major portions of the calendar. He also has said that he wants to use the full schedule in 2020 to show more consistency and validate his spot as the top-ranked player in the world. But, if all of his wins and top finishes come in majors again, he will continue to be one of the most fascinating athletes in all of sports.

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