Brooks Koepka tees off on the 12th hole with Bubba Watson looking on during their practice round for the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on Monday, April 8, 2019, in Augusta. Curtis Compton/
Photo: Compton
Photo: Compton

Unable to play at 2018 Masters, Brooks Koepka is back with trophies

It didn’t start out that way.

One year ago, Koepka missed the Masters with a then-undiagnosed injury to his left wrist that had bothered him for several months. It turned out to be a career-threatening partially torn tendon. Once finally recovered, Koepka went on to defend his U.S. Open title, hold off Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship for his third major in six starts and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.

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“I was still in a soft cast at this point (last year),” Koepka said Tuesday from the Masters, where he can again play. “It was more of a protective thing. … I still couldn’t push down on a shampoo bottle to get anything out. I was still in pain.

“I saw a doctor, I think it would have been next week last year, and he popped it back in, and it’s been good since. It was one of those crazy things, not sure how long ‑ longer than I expected, but once I was able to finally feel like, OK, I can actually hold onto something and grip something a little tight, you know, with some pressure, that I was able to go.”

Koepka reflected on his time away from golf, including watching last year’s Masters on television, and reiterated that he re-discovered his love for the game. It’s no fun when player becomes spectator.

Koepka, ranked No. 4 in the world, returned to health to win the U.S. Open and become the first repeat winner since Curtis Strange in 1989. He would go on to shoot a final-round 66 to win the PGA Championship. He returns for his fourth Masters, healed from the wrist injury, but not 100 percent healthy.

On Tuesday, Koepka acknowledged a poor diet in attempt to lose weight may have contributed to an illness at last month’s Players Championship. After some blood tests, Koepka called the issues “quick fixes” and said he is getting his energy back after several weeks off.

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Something will be different when Koepka gets on the first tee Thursday for the opening round of the 2019 Masters. He will be one year removed from his last Masters, with his best of three tournaments a tied-for-11th finish.

Koepka has hardware.

“I’ve got three trophies that I haven’t had any time I've teed it up,” Koepka said. “I've never been a major champion when I played here. Completely different player probably. Understand how to handle pressure a lot better. Understand this golf course a lot better. Even sitting out a year, there are certain things you can pick up on when you're watching. 

“And really kind of matured on and off the golf course I think is a big deal. ... Everything's kind of come at me fast over the last 18 months, 20 months, and you know, learning how to deal with that now, I'm becoming a little better at it, I guess you could say, so that makes everything a lot easier.”

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