Brooks Koepka just might prove everyone wrong again at the Masters

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

Brooks Koepka just might prove everyone wrong again at the Masters

Masters

Brooks Koepka just might prove everyone wrong again at the Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – It was impossible to get a spot up close to Tiger Woods’ post-round media session Saturday at the Masters. From a distance, the surrounding scrum was a blur of outstretched arms holding recorders and shoulders jockeying for position in uncomfortably tight quarters.

Brooks Koepka arrived to the same spot on Augusta National’s back lawn roughly 25 minutes later.

Not counting the lone cameraman and Masters media employees, there was one reporter present for every major championship Koepka has won over the past 22 months.

Three.

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The words don’t really matter at this point, though, even those coming in an early-week back-and-forth with Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee.

The numbers speak loudly enough.

Reigning British Open winner Francesco Molinari is the 54-hole leader at 13 under, Woods has had the grounds buzzing all week and sits two back, and the back-to-back U.S. Open champ is once again flying under the radar.

That’s not just in the court of public opinion – major-less players like Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler all were favored over Koepka in Vegas to start the week.

That doesn’t change the fact that he now has a serious chance to claim four of the last eight major championships.

“I’m pretty comfortable being up there on the leaderboard in a major come Sunday,” Koepka said. “So I enjoy it. It’s fun. Getting definitely more comfortable with it as every major goes by. But I feel good and I like my chances (Sunday).”

With tee times moved up due to weather concerns, Koepka goes off in the penultimate pairing at 9:09 a.m. Sunday alongside Ian Poulter and Webb Simpson. It seems pointless to even ask if the early start times or star-studded board will have an effect on the 28-year-old who didn’t blink when Woods was at his heels down the stretch at Bellerive.

“I could care less,” Koepka said. “I can’t control anything that they’re doing – whatever they’re going to do, they’re going to do. So I just need to go out there and hopefully they can see something on the board where it’ll make them a little nervous.”

Koepka laid low for most of the afternoon and was at risk of falling off the pace through 14 holes. Then he struck “a little three quarter 8-iron” to 10 feet at the par-5 15th and made the eagle putt.

That got Koepka right back into the party at a course where his sizable length advantage pays dividends. He’s third in average distance at 313.9 yards off the tee this week and hit wedge into the final three holes Saturday, finishing up with a 3-under 69 to get to 10 under.

The distance he gave up via a severely low-calorie diet in the weeks leading up to the Players Championship has not played a factor on the course, though it was a topic of discussion to start the week and led to the aforementioned clash with Chamblee, who scolded Koepka’s “self-sabotage.”

Asked if he felt discounted as a legit favorite entering yet another major due to all the noise, Koepka again fired back at the media attention.

“I’m fine with my weight loss,” Koepka said. “I’m happy. I feel good. I mean, you guys act like I don’t know what I’m doing. I knew I was going to be ready for this week, so, I don’t get it.”

These types of misunderstandings are bound to happen when a player accumulates a Hall-of-Fame resume in such a short period of time.

Nothing breeds scrutiny like overwhelming success. People who couldn’t have picked Koepka out of a lineup two years ago suddenly nitpick every aspect of his career, big and small.

That spotlight will get even brighter if he wins the Masters, setting up a shot at the Career Grand Slam come July in the British Open at Royal Portrush.

Maybe that’s thinking a little too far ahead for a guy three shots back with 18 holes to play. Molinari knows how to close as a frontrunner and the crowds will do all they can to will Woods to victory.

Koepka will just keep doing his thing and point to the scoreboard at the end of the day.

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