Defending champ Brooks Koepka hopes to shake off poor Masters

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Five-time major champion Brooks Koepka has become synonymous with success at major championships and, specifically, success at the PGA Championship -- a tournament he has won three times.

As he prepares to defend his 2023 PGA Championship victory this week at Valhalla Country Club, Koepka is hoping to eliminate the bad taste that a 45th-place finish at the Masters this year left in his mouth. A year after nearly securing his first green jacket, the poor finish was so affecting for Koepka that he said he apologized to his team for his performance.

"Everybody put in a lot of hard work," Koepka said Wednesday. "[They] dedicated a lot of time and effort, and then for me to go out and play like that is not what I expect of myself, I don't think what they expect of me."

His response didn't stop there. Koepka said he embraced the decision to not touch his clubs for a week after Augusta. Once he was back on the course practicing and playing, he and his team focused on sharpening the basic tenets of his golf swing.

"My ball position just got back. Back with everything. All the way through the bag, even with the putter," Koepka said. "So I wasn't able to see the start lines. I like to see it start a little bit left of the target and then kind of fade it back, and it was kind of starting on target or a little bit right, and I had the both-way miss, which isn't good. But just went back to fundamentals, so that was it."

In the gym, Koepka turned up the heat too. Or rather, his trainer did, concocting some "punishment workouts" for Koepka.

"I walked in and [trainer Ara Suppiah] told me, 'You finished 45th; you're going to get penalized,'" Koepka said. "It sucks. It's not a lot of fun. A lot more running. Very up-tempo, no rest. I think I had like four or five days in a row of just -- I turned white, I wanted to throw up in a few of them."

Koepka found it all not just necessary but beneficial. He spoke about how much a player can learn from a loss that can be analyzed, as opposed to a win that's often simply celebrated.

"When you lose, you're kind of forced into trying to figure out why and what happened, and whether that be second place or missing a cut doesn't really matter," Koepka said. "You've got to figure it out."

Despite all the extra work Koepka put in to get over his Masters finish, there's no motivation needed when he arrives at a major championship. Even after winning the LIV Golf event in Singapore, Koepka has often said everything else is just a prelude to when he tees it up at a major.

While Koepka couldn't come up with a reason as to why he has won three PGA Championships, it's clear that setups like Valhalla, where the course is long, hard and often wet due to conditions, benefit him. It's why he won at places like Oak Hill and Bethpage Black -- which he likened to Valhalla -- and why it's no surprise that he is one of the favorites to add to his major tally this week.

"I just like majors. My demeanor and focus is just different, I can't explain it," Koepka said of his approach. "It's a grinding week. You've got to be fully locked in. I feel like you can't take one shot off. I love that. It's always you're one shot away from making a double-bogey, and that's what I love."