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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ewan Murray at Oak Hill

‘He will win a lot more’: Brooks Koepka can rival greats for majors, says coach

Brooks Koepka leans on the trophy after winning the US PGA  at Oak Hill
Brooks Koepka is in relaxed fashion after winning the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill. Photograph: Adam Cairns/USA Today Sports

Pete Cowen, the English coach of Brooks Koepka, believes the newly crowned US PGA champion can match the major-winning tallies of legends such as Ben Hogan and Gary Player. Koepka’s two-stroke success at Oak Hill means he has five majors to his name, including three US PGA titles.

Cowen, who coaches Koepka primarily on his short game, sees no reason for the 33-year-old to stop there. Hogan and Player won nine majors apiece. “He will win a lot more,” he said. “I certainly think he will go another four and he would obviously like a grand slam. Look at how many times he has been second or just missed out already. I thought he was an unbelievable player in 2018-2019 and he has got stronger.”

Injury was Koepka’s problem during much of the intervening period, leading to fears he may even have to step away from top-level golf. “That really affected him,” Cowen said. “You can’t swing the way you want to when your fitness is poor.

“I believed he could come back because he has always been comfortable in uncomfortable situations. He looks as though he is going to beat you now, when he is coming down the stretch. He is not frightened of working, that’s for sure, and he couldn’t work when he was injured.”

Koepka, who tied for second in the Masters, will rise to second in the automatic qualifying places for the US Ryder Cup team. While it would seem extraordinary if he did not at least receive a captain’s pick for the September meeting with Europe in Rome, Koepka’s position as part of the rebel LIV tour adds an element of doubt. “He would love to play in the Ryder Cup,” Cowen said. “I know Brooks – and Dustin Johnson – would love to play. I have spoken to them about it.”

A tongue-in-cheek comment followed, in reference to the PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan. “I don’t think Jay would like him to play,” Cowen said. The Ryder Cup is, however, a PGA of America rather than PGA Tour concern.

Asked about the significance of a LIV golfer winning a major Koepka said: “Yeah, it’s a huge thing, but at the same time I’m out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship.”

Cowen walked with Koepka between Oak Hill’s pitching and putting areas before the final round. “He was complaining about swinging poorly,” Cowen said. “I said to him: ‘Your 70% will still win.’”

Cowen has just one memento from Koepka major wins, a signed flag given to him after the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills. “I sat him down after watching him play all four rounds at the St Jude Classic,” the 72-year-old Yorkshireman said. “I gave him a real talking to, said to him: ‘With that attitude, you’ll win nothing. Your talent is there but your attitude is appalling. You have to have the attitude of a champion if you are going to be a champion.’

“On the flag it says: ‘Thanks for the bollocking. I couldn’t have done it without you.’ He can take that from me, he doesn’t want a ‘yes’ man or his ego stroked.”

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