Cool Hand Koepka

2021 PGA Championship / 1st Round

PGA Championship 2021 R1

May 20-23
Ocean Course, Kiawah Island, SC
Round 2, Round 3, Round 4

PGA Championship 2021 R1 - Cool Hand Koepka
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes


KIAWAH ISLAND, SC. The late actor Paul Newman made famous the title character in the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke.” The character Newman played was resolute in his ways — undeterred by outside pressures and unwilling to conform to the expectations of others. In sum — he marched to the beat of his own drum. During the 1st round at the 103rd PGA Championship Brooks Koepka reprised the role in a big-time way.


PGA Championship 2021 R1

Beginning his round on the 10th hole the four-time major winner promptly started the round with a double-bogey and instead of showing any signs of panic held himself together. Eventually the 31-year-old righted his golf ship with a round of three-under-par 69 and stands just two shots back of first round leader Canadian Corey Conners.


PGA Championship 2021 R1

Cool hand Koepka front and center.

Koepka’s round included six birdies against the aforementioned double-bogey and one other bogey on the par-4 15th.

Coming into this week’s 2nd major championship in 2021, Koepka’s performances have been a roller-coaster of sorts. He won the Waste Management event earlier in February for this 8th PGA Tour title. Brooks followed up with T2 several weeks later at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession. But then he went through a series of injury issues — having knee surgery in late March he opted to play in Augusta for the Masters and failed to make the cut. Playing prior to this week’s PGA Championship, Koepka returned to the Tour in little over a month’s time at the AT&T Byron Nelson and also missed the cut.

For many players the thought of consecutive missed cuts and little real competitive results prior to a major championship would likely set in motion a series of pressure-oriented decision inevitably ratcheting up the meter of concern.

Not so — cool hand Koepka knows himself far too well.


PGA Championship 2021 R1

Koepka played his opening round with Justin Thomas, ranked number two in the world and Rory McIlroy who ended his winless streak on the PGA Tour when winning the Wells Fargo event just a few weeks back. Both men played haphazardly — settling for rounds of 75 respectively. Given McIlroy’s win at the ’12 PGA Championship — also at The Ocean Course — he was installed as the pre-tournament favorite and like Koepka is the winner of four major titles – the last coming in 2014.

Since claiming his first major championship when winning the 2017 U.S. Open — Koepka has played 13 majors since that victory — finishing in the top ten a total of nine times. In sum — when big events happen — it is Koepka who has shown a clear appetite to engage in the competition.


PGA Championship 2021 R1

In years past, golfer Raymond Floyd was known for his “stare” — the wherewithal to block out all distractions and demonstrate a golfing ability to rise above others when playing his best. Koepka does so similarly — eliminating the distractions and enveloping himself in a shot-by-shot dissection with his caddie since 2013 — Ricky Elliott. 

Elliott, who hails from Northern Ireland, highlighted the mental edge Koepka has shown when playing. Following Koepka’s second US Open victory in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills in an interview he gave to ESPN he said of Koepka, “He’s just a real strong mental guy, he’s unflappable. When he hits a bad shot, he never gives me any grief. He gets on with it. I mean, to this day, if we hit one over the back [of the green], he’d probably just turn around to me and go, “Well, I hit that quite a bit hard.”


PGA Championship 2021 R1

Reputations in golf are cemented through the four major championships. Koepka has faced such situations and with three rounds to play there’s much golf that remains. A younger generation of players has emerged and their names are also in contention with this week’s event. They include defending PGA Champion Colin Morikawa (-2), Victor Hovland (-3) and Will Zalatoris (-1). 

Will Koepka be able to sustain the physical rigors for the final three days? He indicated in a post-round news conference that playing in pain is something he’s been doing for some time and doesn’t see that interfering with his efforts in claiming a 3rd PGA Championship title. That’s clearly bad news for everyone else as the man who previously was ranked the best player in the game is looking to re-establish himself as the golfer most able to succeed when the biggest golf events are contested. Cool hand Koepka is well aware of his presence — and so is the opposition.


PGA Championship 2021 R1 - Cool Hand Koepka

PGA Championship 2021 R1

Notes —


PGA Championship 2021 R1

*The hardest holes in the 1st round came with the likes of the par-4 15th, the par-3 17th and par-4 18th. Players faced a difficult headwind when arriving at the par-3 14th. The 18th was the hardest hole with over a 4.50 average and the 17th followed closely behind. Wind patterns are expected to remain the same for the next two rounds but Sunday’s final round is expected to see a shift with the wind pattern coming out of the southwest — meaning the final five holes will play downwind and likely forcing players to make adjustments from how the holes are playing now.

*50-year-old Phil Mickelson got off to an impressive start — firing a two-under-par 70. Should Phil emerge victorious and claim his 2nd PGA Championship title — he would become the oldest winner of a major championship surpassing the record set by Julius Boros who was 48 when winning the 1968 PGA Championship.


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PGA Championship 2021 R1

*Rickie Fowler’s recent play has not been noteworthy but the PGA of America provided him with a special exemption into this year’s event and he made the most of it thus far with an opening round of 71. Fowler has never claimed a major win and his last PGA Tour triumph came in February 2019 at the Waste Management event.

*A total of 30 players scored under-par for the opening round. During the 2012 PGA Championship held here — 43 players scored at least one-under-par for the 1st round.

*World ranked number one player Dustin Johnson continued his recent poor play with a round of 76. Johnson was part of the afternoon wave of players and again was held back by a balky putter. It did not help matters that Johnson’s driving — normally a key strength was also inconsistent. For Dustin to be playing this weekend — his Friday round has to be a major improvement.


Pos.
Player
To Par
R1
1
Corey Conners
-5
67
T2
Keegan Bradley
-3
69
T2
Viktor Hovland
-3
69
T2
Brooks Koepka
-3
69
T2
Aaron Wise
-3
69
T2
Sam Horsfield
-3
69
T2
Cam Davis
-3
69
T8
Cameron Tringale
-2
70
T8
Martin Laird
-2
70
T8
Collin Morikawa
-2
70
T8
Phil Mickelson
-2
70
T8
Branden Grace
-2
70
T8
Gary Woodland
-2
70
T8
Kevin Streelman
-2
70
T8
Sungjae Im
-2
70
T16
Talor Gooch
-1
71
T16
Paul Casey
-1
71
T16
Rickie Fowler
-1
71
T16
Tyrrell Hatton
-1
71
T16
Jason Dufner
-1
71
T16
Louis Oosthuizen
-1
71
T16
Stewart Cink
-1
71
T16
Tom Lewis
-1
71
T16
Jason Kokrak
-1
71
T16
Richy Werenski
-1
71
T16
Joaquin Niemann
-1
71
T16
Padraig Harrington
-1
71
T16
Rasmus Hojgaard
-1
71
T16
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
-1
71
T16
Will Zalatoris
-1
71
T31
Adam Long
E
72
T31
Harry Higgs
E
72
T31
Scottie Scheffler
E
72
T31
Bubba Watson
E
72
T31
Bryson DeChambeau
E
72
T31
Erik van Rooyen
E
72
T31
Jon Rahm
E
72
T31
Justin Rose
E
72
T31
Cameron Smith
E
72
T31
Ben Cook
E
72
T41
Dylan Frittelli
1
73
T41
Matt Jones
1
73
T41
Harold Varner III
1
73
T41
Byeong Hun An
1
73
T41
Garrick Higgo
1
73
T41
Jimmy Walker
1
73
T41
Henrik Stenson
1
73
T41
Lee Westwood
1
73
T41
Xander Schauffele
1
73
T41
Hideki Matsuyama
1
73
T41
Jason Scrivener
1
73
T41
Charley Hoffman
1
73
T41
Matt Wallace
1
73
T41
Brad Marek
1
73
T41
Denny McCarthy
1
73
T41
Matt Fitzpatrick
1
73
T41
Carlos Ortiz
1
73
T41
Andy Sullivan
1
73
T41
Jordan Spieth
1
73
T41
Shane Lowry
1
73
T41
Patrick Cantlay
1
73
T62
Marc Leishman
2
74
T62
Tom Hoge
2
74
T62
Joel Dahmen
2
74
T62
Zach Johnson
2
74
T62
Ryan Palmer
2
74
T62
Lanto Griffin
2
74
T62
Kalle Samooja
2
74
T62
Abraham Ancer
2
74
T62
Rich Beem
2
74
T62
Tony Finau
2
74
T62
Jason Day
2
74
T62
Patrick Reed
2
74
T62
Ian Poulter
2
74
T62
Brendon Todd
2
74
T62
Dean Burmester
2
74
T77
Brendan Steele
3
75
T77
George Coetzee
3
75
T77
Robert MacIntyre
3
75
T77
John Catlin
3
75
T77
Martin Kaymer
3
75
T77
Harris English
3
75
T77
Rory McIlroy
3
75
T77
Justin Thomas
3
75
T77
Chan Kim
3
75
T77
Mark Geddes
3
75
T77
Si Woo Kim
3
75
T77
Alex Beach
3
75
T77
Daniel van Tonder
3
75
T77
Wyndham Clark
3
75
T77
Y.E. Yang
3
75
T77
J.T. Poston
3
75
T77
Brian Harman
3
75
T77
Webb Simpson
3
75
T77
Mackenzie Hughes
3
75
T77
Takumi Kanaya
3
75
T97
Patrick Rada
4
76
T97
Ben Polland
4
76
T97
Rob Labritz
4
76
T97
Thomas Detry
4
76
T97
Charl Schwartzel
4
76
T97
Rikuya Hoshino
4
76
T97
Tommy Fleetwood
4
76
T97
Steve Stricker
4
76
T97
Dustin Johnson
4
76
T97
Thomas Pieters
4
76
T97
Lucas Herbert
4
76
T97
Chris Kirk
4
76
T97
Greg Koch
4
76
T110
Kevin Kisner
5
77
T110
Hudson Swafford
5
77
T110
Brandon Hagy
5
77
T110
Danny Willett
5
77
T110
Alex Noren
5
77
T110
Emiliano Grillo
5
77
T110
Brett Walker
5
77
T110
Brian Gay
5
77
T110
Robert Streb
5
77
T110
Kurt Kitayama
5
77
T110
Sebastian Munoz
5
77
T110
Adam Hadwin
5
77
T110
Jazz Janewattananond
5
77
T110
Billy Horschel
5
77
T110
Chez Reavie
5
77
T110
Sergio Garcia
5
77
T110
Matt Kuchar
5
77
T127
Bernd Wiesberger
6
78
T127
Adam Scott
6
78
T127
Peter Malnati
6
78
T127
Jim Herman
6
78
T127
Sami Valimaki
6
78
T127
Max Homa
6
78
T127
Russell Henley
6
78
T127
Brandon Stone
6
78
T127
Victor Perez
6
78
T127
Maverick McNealy
6
78
T127
K.H. Lee
6
78
T138
Derek Holmes
7
79
T138
Kevin Na
7
79
T138
Danny Balin
7
79
T138
Tim Pearce
7
79
T138
Daniel Berger
7
79
T138
Antoine Rozner
7
79
T144
Larkin Gross
8
80
T144
Pete Ballo
8
80
T146
Joe Summerhays
9
81
T146
Shaun Micheel
9
81
T146
Aaron Rai
9
81
T149
Cameron Champ
10
82
T149
Stuart Smith
10
82
T149
Omar Uresti
10
82
T152
John Daly
13
85
T152
Sonny Skinner
13
85
154
Frank Bensel, Jr.
14
86
155
Tyler Collet
16
88
WD
Sam Burns
E
41