Diane Knox Balas: Brooks Koepka’s withdrawal is worrying ahead of PGA Championship next week
Seeing players withdraw from a tournament on the PGA Tour is not uncommon, but it’s hardly encouraging when they occur the week before the 2nd major of the year.
There have been a few withdrawals from the AT&T Byron Nelson early this week – Brian Harman, Erik Van Rooyen, Doug Ghim, Danny Lee, Nick Hardy, Rasmus Højgaard and Morgan Hoffman – but the biggest name to pull out is Brooks Koepka.
There are no details on the reason why Brooks has removed himself from the field at TPC Craig Ranch, but the timing is worth noting.
Next week, all eyes will be on Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the PGA Championship, a major that Koepka has excelled at. The two-time PGA Champion lifted the coveted Wanamaker trophy in 2018 at Bellerive Country Club, and then again the following year at the grueling Bethpage Black. Not only that, but he finished runner-up last year at Kiawah Island behind Phil Mickelson.
Brooks has made no secret of the fact his game seems to level up when it comes to the “big” events. His major record speaks for itself – he’s won four of them and, since his U.S. Open win in 2017, has finished T6 or better in 12 of his 17 starts. That includes runner-up finishes at the Masters and the U.S. Open in 2019, and as I said, the PGA Championship in ‘21.
It’s no surprise that Koepka is one of the early betting favorites for next week, with odds of around 16/1. But that may change following his exit from Texas.
We haven’t seen him tee it up since he missed the cut at the Masters last month, so he’s not going to have the benefit of playing tournament rounds prior to the PGA. Brooks has also been plagued with injury woes throughout this career – wrist, hip and, most recently, knee surgery in March of 2021. However, earlier this year he insisted he’s healthy and ready to play his best golf yet.
There hasn’t been much evidence of that so far in this 2021/22 season. In his 13 starts, he’s missed the cut in 6 of those events, and has carded only a pair of top-10 finishes, one of them being at the WGC-Dell Tech Matchplay.
This WD from the Byron Nelson is concerning, and we can only hope it’s not due to some sort of injury. That being said, it does put a question mark over Brooks that not even his major record can stamp out.
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