Brooks is back: Data insights on Koepka's fifth major

Words by
Dan Davies
Brooks is back: Data insights on Koepka's fifth major

Brooks Koepka is back. A serious knee injury caused him to doubt whether he would ever be able to compete again at the very top but a runner-up finish at the Masters and now his third PGA Championship title have emphatically answered the question. 

Winning his fifth major puts Koepka alongside greats such as Byron Nelson and Severiano Ballesteros. It also makes him the third most successful golfer of the 21st century, behind only Tiger and Phil.

At Oak Hill we saw the swaggering, gun-slinging Brooks of old – or at least of 2017-2019 when he won back-to-back US Open and PGA titles, spent 47 weeks at number one in the world and established himself as the game’s pre-eminent closer. After opening with a 72, he produced brilliant back to back rounds of 66 before sealing the deal with a 67.

For the final three days, all parts of his game were firing. In the second round, Koepka averaged 325 yards off the tee. On a rain-lashed Saturday, he holed over 132 feet of putts (just over 73 feet is male tour average) and his average proximity for around the green shots was just 3ft 2ins (tour average is 7ft 10ins). 

Playing to Sunday pin positions on the most demanding of courses, his average proximity for approach shots in the final round was just under 29 feet, almost 10 feet better than tour average. 

Koepka hit a lot of outstanding golf shots, scoring 150+ for Shot Quality for 29 of them across the four rounds (a Shot Quality score of 100 is male tour average). Two he referenced were his second shot to 16 on Sunday (Shot Quality 185) after Viktor Hovland had buried his ball under the lip of a fairway bunker, and a chip-in for par on 11 on day one, which prevented a potentially derailing double-bogey (Shot Quality 198).

After tapping in for a two-stroke victory, Koepka said he was “in control all day”. In fact, he was in control from day two onwards. He only hit three bad shots (Shot Quality of 0-40) in the final 54 holes of the tournament, which is some feat on a golf course as exacting as the remodelled East Course at Oak Hill. 

The 33-year-old held off the world’s best, including a hard-charging Scottie Scheffler. That it was the new world number one is significant because a little more than a year ago, Koepka opened up to the Netflix cameras, admitting that he didn't know whether he had what it took to hang with the recently crowned Masters champion. Now he knows.

“I guess maybe if anybody doubted it from Augusta or whatever, any doubts anybody on TV might have or whatever, I'm back, I'm here,” the champion told the media after hoisting aloft the Wanamaker Trophy for the third time. It's bad news for everyone who thought golf’s major man was done.