RIVERA MAYA, Mexico — Brooks Koepka missed the cut at this tournament last year and hardly seemed to care. Assuming you live online like the rest of us, you’ll recall his then-girlfriend now-fiancee Jena Sims feeding him grapes just a few hours after his week came to an abrupt end. He hardly had time to get back to his room at the Mayakoba resort and throw on a Versace outfit, but he managed.
Fast forward 11 months and Koepka returns to Mexico in awful form by his own (lofty) standards since the Open Championship; his best finish in six events since was a T-22 at the BMW Championship. You’d be forgiven for assuming this doesn’t bother him, as he’s cultivated a reputation as a big-game hunter who only gets up for the majors. You’d be wrong, though. He’s slipped to World No. 13 and it is quite clearly bothering him.
“I’m a range rat, I’ll sit on the range all day,” he said ahead of this week’s World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, a complete 180 from his assertion a few years ago that he does not practice.
“I’m healthy now, so I can practice and do everything I want to do. I’ve just been grinding, man. You go through periods where you just feel like you’ve got no control of the clubhead or you don’t know exactly where your swing is and what you’re doing. It’s just frustrating. … It’s been a little bit more difficult, a lot more work’s been put in. Like I said, I’m just trying to play my way through it. Originally, I wasn’t going to play this event, but I’m not going to get any better sitting at home. I’d rather come out here and—not saying I’m trying to miss the cut—but if I miss the cut, at least I’ve put in work and maybe found something.”
He may well miss the cut after an even-par 71 on Thursday morning that has him in a tie for 92nd. But he didn’t head back to the beach. There were no grapes involved. Koepka was still on the driving range in full grind mode a solid four hours after his round fixed, with caddy Ricky Elliott taking videos from multiple angles.
For a couple years there, Koepka amazed his peers with his ability to put in minimal work and remain at the pinnacle of the sport. But this game humbles even four-time major champions, and on Thursday afternoon, Koepka was but one of 10 guys on the practice tee, drenched in sweat on a brutally humid day, searching for something to turn his fortunes around. What a difference a year makes.