Sport

Time to embrace boring Brooks Koepka’s greatness

Accept and embrace him, people.

Brooks Koepka isn’t going anywhere soon — other than to some more major championship winner’s circles.

The 29-year-old Koepka — who on Thursday seized the opening-round lead in the PGA Championship with a 7-under-par 63 that looked so easy it looked like he was playing Bethpage’s mellow Yellow Course, not the brutish Black track — might not possess an it-factor personality.

He might not be funny, full of one-liners. He might not make you laugh. He might speak in monotone. He might not be charismatic. So what if he doesn’t win the press conferences? He wins major championships, and that’s what this game is about.

Yet, for some curious reason, the golfing public seems reticent to accept Koepka as one of the brightest stars in golf. His three major championships since 2017 apparently haven’t been enough to sway the masses.

When Koepka was asked after his round — a round in which he dusted his accomplished playing partners, Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari, by a whopping nine shots — if there was a “certain number of majors wins’’ that it was going to take before he’s given proper “credit’’ as one of the (if not THE) elite, he responded simply and succinctly.

“I don’t know,’’ he said. “We’ll find out maybe, I guess.’’

What is it going to take for Koepka to be considered the best player in the world?

More major championship victories will do that. And if he continues on the torrid pace he’s on — highlighted by Thursday’s course and major-championship-record-tying 63 — Koepka is on the cusp of forcing himself to the front of the conversation.

“He’s pretty darned good at majors,’’ Rickie Fowler said. “I think over the last couple years, it’s something that everyone has gotten used to. He’s done a good job of stepping up and playing well at majors. So it’s no surprise, and this golf course, it does suit him well. He’s a good driver of the golf ball. I would expect him to play well here.’’

Koepka conducts himself like a guy who expects to be exactly where he is right now: in position to win another major. He said matter-of-factly on Tuesday that getting to “double digits’’ in majors seemed like an acceptable goal.

“I sure wouldn’t be surprised if he was still there on Sunday,’’ Tommy Fleetwood said. “I think when you get to majors, there’s definitely certain names and certain people that you’ve got to beat.’’

And Koepka is at the top of that list right now. Whether you like it or not.

“I’ve opened up,’’ Koepka said. “I’m being me. I’m, I guess, communicating a little bit better. I feel like I’m finally in a good spot now to say things that I probably couldn’t say before or was maybe afraid of. What people think … it’s up to them.’’

Indicative of how high Koepka’s personal standards are can be detected by the fact that he sounded almost nonplussed by his 63, because he knows it could have been better.

“I didn’t take care of the par-5s, didn’t birdie any of the par-5s,’’ he said, sounding almost as if he was publicly scolding himself. “That was disappointing, because I felt like those are holes you should be able to birdie. [I] definitely can reach No. 4 and I just hit a bad drive there. And then 13, I can get there, too, [and] I just hit it in the bunker. And then the second hole today, my 11th hole, I missed about a 5-footer. That would have been nice to shoot 60. I guess that would have been pretty good.’’

Guess so.

The question now is what Koepka has in store for an encore in Friday’s second round? It’s historically difficult for players to follow super-low rounds with another the next day. Koepka didn’t sound overly concerned.

“They say that, but plenty of people have followed it up with a good round,’’ he said. “I mean, [Friday] is a whole new day. Get out here and stick to my normal routine and then go from there. But I’m excited about [Friday]. Obviously, [I’ve] never been this confident. I’m still learning, understanding my game.

“I’ve figured it out, and over the next few years I’m excited for what’s to come.’’

You might as well be, too.

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