World No. 1 Brooks Koepka makes his return to competitive golf at this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour.
He’ll do so without “excruciating” pain in his left knee that forced him to withdraw from the CJ Cup in South Korea in November, pull out of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China and the Presidents Cup in Australia in December.
Koepka said his knee started bothering him last March and he had stem cell treatment just after the Tour Championship in August. He came back at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas in October and missed the cut. He reinjured his left knee slipping on concrete during the CJ Cup.
“I re-tore (the patella tendon) and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad,” Koepka said at Abu Dhabi Golf Club ahead of Thursday’s start of his 2020 debut. “That’s excruciating. It’s a lot of pain. It’s not fun.”
Koepka began hitting golf balls again just before Christmas. He said his left knee still isn’t 100 percent, but it’s good enough to start playing again.
“It probably won’t for a while, but it does feel stable,” he said. “’Leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month ago and a half ago, it just didn’t feel stable. It felt like it could either way. It could go left, out, back.
“Even when I got the green light (to practice), I just didn’t know whether it was going to feel right, whether you’re going to be the same, how it is going to feel. Everything felt good. Speed was the same. We were hitting on TrackMan and my numbers were exactly what they were the day I left, which is always nice.
“After a couple of days of hitting balls and not feeling pain, it was OK, I could get back here and do this and finally play.”
Last year, Koepka won the PGA Championship for the second consecutive year and captured his first WGC title at the FedEx St. Jude Invitational. After this week, he’s scheduled to play in the Saudi International in two weeks. He is set to make his first start of the year on the PGA Tour at the Genesis Invitational north of Los Angeles in February.
“I’m just excited to hit balls,” Koepka said. “Last year, there wasn’t much practice. I just couldn’t do it with my knee. I couldn’t get on my left side. Couldn’t squat down in a bunker. I struggled to get down and read a putt.
“Thankfully that’s in the past now.”