The Palmetto Championship: Is Brooks Koepka a poor punt before a Major?

The American lines up in this week’s new event at Congaree but does past evidence show he’ll be distracted ahead of the US Open at Torrey Pines?

Brooks Koepka has an astonishing record in Major Championships.

After flexing his muscles with four top 10s from 2014 to 2016, the American bagged his first by winning the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills.

Now he has four after a successful US Open defence at Shinnecock and a pair of back-to-back PGA Championship wins in 2018 and 2019.

His numbers are remarkable. Since the start of 2017, Koepka is a ridiculous 74-under in the Majors. No-one else comes remotely close.

2017: -21

2018: -13

2019: -28

2020: -13

2021: +1

After another near-miss in the PGA Championship last month, he will go for a fifth Major at Torrey Pines next week.

Koepka is a 14/1 chance to win the US Open and plenty will be happy to back him at that price.

Before then, he tunes up in this week's PGA TOUR event in South Carolina and Koepka is 17/2 with bet365 to win the Palmetto Championship and head to California with another trophy.

He's one of the class acts in a weak field so, in theory, could be worth a punt even though the price is fairly short.

But there's an idea with some punters that Koepka is so focused on Majors that he takes his eye off the ball in these warm-up tournaments. Does that thinking stack up?

Koepka before a Major

Here, we look at his finishes when lining up the week before a Major:

2021 Byron Nelson Championship: Missed Cut

2020 Houston Open: 5th

2020 St. Jude Invitational: 2nd

2019 Canadian Open: 50th

2019 Byron Nelson Championship: 4th

2018 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: 5th

2018 St Jude Classic: 30th

2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: 17th

2017 St Jude Classic: 37th

Perhaps there was justification a few years ago in thinking that he wasn't really pumped up enough to challenge in these pre-Major events.

But in recent times Koepka has put that idea to bed.

Although he hasn't won, on four of the last six occasions he's teed it up the week before a Major he's bagged a top-five finish. That's impressive in anyone's books.

Koepka clearly focuses on trying to peak for the Majors. But a residual effect of that could be that he comes very close to hitting top form the week before. The game head isn't fully on but something inside Koepka is telling him that the dress rehearsal needs his attention too if he wants to impress on the big stage a week later.

Quotes

Here's what Koepka said in his Wednesday press conference at the Palmetto Championship.

On his first impressions of the course, Congaree GC

"Obviously, it's kind of unfortunate the rain the last Monday, I guess, and then a few days before, so it's playing a little softer than what they would have liked or where they had the golf course, but it's in great shape. It's a fun golf course to play. Everyone's kind of playing it for the first time, so trying to figure it out.

"You miss the greens around here, you could end up 40, 50 yards away from the hole with an interesting chip. It will be a fun golf course to play. So hopefully, it just cools off a little bit because it is steamy."

On the current state of his knee as he continues to recover from surgery

"The knee feels great. It feels probably better than ever. Doing kind of a quad stretch. My foot can kind of touch my butt for the first time, so the knee is months and months ahead of schedule. It feels really good, just being able to do work, doing some Pilates, just started that. I think a lot of this has really helped.

"I know Dr. ElAttrache is very pleased, Mark Wall, physio. Everyone is very happy."

On whether Congaree reminds him of Augusta National

"I don't know. It's kind of hard to compare any place to Augusta, to be honest with you. I mean, I don't see the similarities. I think this golf course is a lot different. It plays probably more linksy than Augusta. Maybe the similarities with the run-offs around the greens, the green complex, just things like that, I think that would be where the similarities are.

"Off the tee, I think this place is a little more challenging off the tee with the bunkers, more tree lines. If you kind of cheat the corner here, you seem to be behind a tree. A lot more bunkers. It will be interesting. I think, if you put the ball in play or in the fairway off the tee, it's going to be -- you know, you're going to have a lot of good looks, and if you just put it -- if you hit a lot of greens, you can make a lot of putts. These greens are really good, really smooth, good Bermuda. It will be interesting to see what the scoring is this week.

"I played nine holes yesterday, and I don't really have an idea of what the score would take, but I guess I'll get a better idea maybe today, more of an idea."

On the state of his game ahead of next week's US Open

"Yeah, I'm playing good. I like the way everything's been going. My body's getting better and better every day, feeling more comfortable doing things on the golf course that maybe I couldn't do from Augusta to PGA. It's just getting better and better every day. So I'm very pleased and like my chances."

On what he might be working on this week to get ready for Torrey Pines

"The one thing why I think we're playing this week, I like playing before the US Open, and I'm under repped this whole year. I haven't played much. So I think the big thing is just getting big reps under my belt. I felt like I played good at Kiawah. I liked the way I played, putted iffy, didn't putt too well, but it's one of those things where I felt like maybe if I had a few more rounds kind of going through the year and was a little more comfortable, it might have been, I guess maybe easier for me.

"So that's part of the reason why I wanted to play this week. I need to play. I haven't played enough out here to really feel like, hey, man, I've got this shot. I feel comfortable with everything we're working on, and now that the knee's not really an issue anymore, it's getting a lot freer and able to hit golf shots and read putts, get down there fully without bigger effort to get down to read it."

READ MORE: Three angles at new PGA Tour event the Palmetto Championship at Congaree

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