SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – For the last 18 months the question has been asked in TV studios, press boxes and grill rooms. Heck, even Koepka himself asked it.
“There was a period maybe for about two months where I just questioned whether I was ever going to be the same,” he said after shooting a final-round 65 to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open by a shot over Xander Schauffele (71) and Kyoung-Hoon Lee (68). “Whether I was even going to be somewhat remotely the same golfer that I ever was.”
Comebacks were the story of the week, what with Schauffele chasing his first victory in over two years and Jordan Spieth (72, T4) trying to win for the first time in three and a half.
Koepka, though, turned his comeback into a handcrafted, 20-pound “Chrystal Thunderbird” trophy of crystal on a mesquite-wood base. His pedal-to-the-mettle finish salted away his eighth PGA TOUR title and moved him from 73rd to 12th in the FedExCup. After battling a left knee injury for much of the last year and a half, he’s finally 100 percent, and it showed.
Shaking off a bogey at the second hole, he made two eagles, went 5 under for the last six holes for the second straight day, overcame a five-shot deficit, and won for the first time since the 2019 World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.
“It feels like it’s been forever,” he said after collecting his second Waste Management Phoenix Open title (2015) – and breaking a streak of three straight missed cuts coming into the week.
Steve Stricker (67, T4), who at 53 was vying to become the oldest-ever TOUR winner, played with Koepka and was more than an interested observer. He will captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team at Whistling Straits later this year, and Koepka is a mainstay on such teams.
“I catch myself though rooting for guys, like Brooks, and then I’ve got to pull myself back and say, Wait a second, I’m trying to win this thing, too,” Stricker said with a laugh. “I want to see him play well because I think he can be a huge help to this team in September.”
Part of what Koepka did well, Stricker added, was simply hang around. After making eagle at the par-5 third hole, he made nine straight pars to set up his big finish from 13-18. The biggest shot of that stretch was arguably his chip-in for eagle at the driveable, par-4 17th hole.