U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka was out of golf so long he forgot where he put his clubs when finally healthy enough to start hitting balls.
Now he’s back to work, and he’s ready to play.
Koepka plans to play the Zurich Classic next week in New Orleans, ending a 15-week hiatus from a left wrist injury so severe he was in a soft cast for two months and didn’t touch a club for 91 days.
“It feels like I’ve been out for six months,” Koepka said. “I still have confidence. I feel like I can win next week.”
Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix on the Japan Golf Tour last November, and the next week he was hitting balls to get ready for the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas when he felt pain in his left wrist.
It hurt all week in the Bahamas, where he finished last against an 18-man field. Koepka didn’t touch a club until going to Kapalua for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He finished last against a 34-man field.
And then he stepped away.
“It was torn a lot worse than they originally thought,” said Koepka, who doesn’t know what caused the partial tear to a tendon. “The ligaments that hold the tendon in place were gone. Every time I went to the doctor, it seemed like it got worse and worse.”
His treatment included withdrawing bone marrow from his hip and injecting it into his left wrist, and then another session a month later of platelet-rich plasma injections.
The injury not only caused Koepka to miss the Masters, it stopped the momentum that began with his four-shot victory in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last summer. In his next nine starts, Koepka had one victory (by nine shots in Japan), a runner-up in the World Golf Championships event in Shanghai, two other top 10s and only one finish out of the top 20.
Not playing also gave him a rare case of restlessness. Koepka says he never watches golf on TV, though he made an exception for the Masters two weeks ago.
“It was really fun as a fan to watch,” he said. “I’m usually out there grinding. You see a birdie go up on the board and you’re not thinking about how it affects the tournament because you’re playing. I wasn’t rooting for anybody, I was just watching as a fan. And I was glued. For the first time, I can definitely say I was into it on TV.”
His contact with the golfing world was next to none.
Phil Mickelson sent him a text during the Masters to wish him well and hope for a speedy recovery. He saw Dustin Johnson, one of his closest friends on tour, a few times at home in Jupiter, Florida. And he saw Tiger Woods on Thursday when Koepka went out to the Medalist to play.
Koepka hit balls Monday and Tuesday of last week, and then rested to make sure everything felt fine. He played Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week before heading up to The Floridian to work with Claude Harmon on his wedge game.
He didn’t have a partner for the Zurich Classic, a team event, because of his late decision. Koepka will play with Marc Turnesa, who also lives in South Florida. Turnesa’s lone victory was 10 years ago in Las Vegas.
Koepka doesn’t see this as a tuneup. His game and his swing don’t feel much different from the last time he played, minus the pain in his wrist.
“I know where I’m at. I’m already back,” he said. “I’ve played the game for 23, 24 years. Four months off, I’m not going to lose it.”
He didn’t lose his clubs, either. Koepka found them in the garage.