To no surprise, Brooks Koepka made headlines during last week’s PGA Championship. Entering the year’s first major as the defending back-to-back champion of the PGA, all eyes were on Koepka entering the week. He hadn’t been playing all that great since golf’s return and has been open about dealing with ongoing injuries, but this was a major and Koepka flips a switch to perform on the game’s biggest stages.
Things were working for Koepka at TPC Harding Park. He entered Sunday’s final round two shots behind leader Dustin Johnson. Sandwiched between the two of them on the leaderboard were Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler.
Following Saturday’s third-round, Koepka was asked to give his thoughts about the leaderboard heading into Sunday, a pretty typical question, but his comments were far from typical as he downplayed his playing competitors including Johnson.
“A lot of the guys on the leaderboard, I don’t think have won, I guess DJ has only won one. I don’t know a lot of the other guys up there.”
He then took it a step further with his comments about DJ.
“I was glancing at the leaderboard and of the 10 guys that are up there, there’s been what three majors? DJ has been in this spot a couple of times and he hasn’t been able to capitalize,” Koepka said according to Todd Lewis.
Not only did his comments send a wave through the media, but Rory McIlroy was also taken aback by what Koepka said and delivered a jab himself.
“I mean, sort of hard to knock a guy who’s got 21 wins on the PGA Tour, which is three times what Brooks has,” McIlroy said.
One of those players near the top of that leaderboard that Koepka threw a bit of shade at was eventual winner Collin Morikawa, who also entered Sunday’s final round two shots back alongside Koepka. Koepka went on to shoot 4-over on Sunday to finish T-29.
Koepka addressed the comments he made with Eamon Lynch of Golfweek on Wednesday and it’s clear that he regrets some of the words he chose.
“I honestly was struggling coming down the end of the third round. I was well back and I saw DJ was at minus-9. I birdied to get to minus-7. I was focused on Dustin. I had no idea who was at 8 or with me at 7. To be honest, when I’m looking at a leaderboard I’m never looking at who is behind me or tied with me, I only look ahead. I view myself as going forward no matter what. So I regret that part of it. That’s what I was trying to say — that I didn’t know who was on the leaderboard at that point because I hadn’t looked. I just genuinely didn’t know the guys at 8 and 7. That part I regret and I wish I had used different words because I didn’t pay enough attention to who was under Dustin because he was my main focus.”
He explained that he regrets his “other guys” comment, referring to the guys he said he “didn’t know,” as well.
“Yeah, it’s definitely that part because that’s a shot at all the other guys. We pretty much know everybody, we grew up playing golf with them and it came across that I had no idea who these guys are. And that’s completely false.”
It’s worth noting that Koepka never said he regrets the specific comment made about DJ, however. In fact, Lynch asked Koepka if he had reached out or plans to reach out to Johnson to speak with him about the incident. Koepka answered, “that’s not something I’m planning on doing.”
You can obviously be your own judge about Koepka’s comments here, but they seem genuine to me when referring to the ‘other guys’. He said some things that didn’t come across all that great, which is something we’ve all done a time or two. Having said that, it’s interesting to wonder whether or not we’d be talking about this situation if Koepka went on to win on Sunday.