Koepka gets more than bargained for in U.S. Open
Sunday, June 15, 2014
PINEHURST, N.C. – Staring down a birdie putt on his 72nd hole of the 2014 U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka knew that his performance Sunday had just changed his life.
Coming into the day, the former Florida State All-American needed a T-17 finish to secure his PGA Tour card for the 2014-15 season. Check.
A top-10 finish at Pinehurst No. 2 would also secure an invitation to Chambers Bay for the 2015 U.S. Open. Unless he three-putted, also secure. Check.
What he didn't know is that a birdie would secure him a likely top-four finish – and that'd land him a spot in the 2015 Masters.
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Open (Sunday)
Check out final round photos of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
The birdie putt dropped and Koepka pulled off a day that most up-and-coming professional golfers can only dream of.
"(Getting his PGA Tour card) has always been a dream of mine," said Koepka, still oblivious to his start at Augusta National. "And to do it here, at the U.S. Open, that's special."
Koepka came into the week ranked No. 96 in the Official World Golf Ranking – 10 spots lower than where he started the year. The Florida native was coming off a 2013 campaign that saw him win three times on the Challenge Tour, earning himself an automatic promotion to the European Tour.
But 2014 has been a different story.
Koepka secured only one top 10 overseas heading into this week. He also missed 4 of 11 cuts on PGA Tour, his only top 10 coming at the season-opening Frys.com Open.
So, needless to say, his magical Sunday in eastern North Carolina came a bit out of the blue.
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Open Fashion, Sunday
Apparel during Sunday's final round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
"I don't think my own parents thought it'd be this quick. Not even my coaches," Koepka said.
Despite his up-and-down play this year, Koepka pointed to an important round at the PGA Championship in August that changed his perspective in majors.
Paired with Tiger Woods in the final round at Oak Hill, Koepka found himself in "awe" playing alongside the 14-time major winner.
"He's the best player, ever, in my opinion," said Koepka.
The distraction led to a 7-over 77, but Koepka learned a valuable lesson from that round – you have to focus on your own game.
"I have to stick to my game and play," said Koepka, who will travel to Scotland and France for upcoming European Tour events. "I grew up watching these guys on TV; it's weird to finally play with them.
"I learned a lot about my game that day. I had to just take care of what I have to do."
It also led to a newfound focus for the 24-year-old, intensifying his work with instructor Claude Harmon and recently linking up with short-game guru Pete Cowen. And he's liking the results.
"Things are trending in the right direction. Why stop now?" Koepka said.
That direction has a lot more definition now – thanks to a magical day on the links of Pinehurst.