He may have dropped to number 10 in the world rankings, but Brooks Koepka’s showing in the opening round of the US Open proves that he remains the man for the big occasion.
In fact, his round of 69 at Torrey Pines now puts the 31-year-old an astonishing 84-under-par in the majors since 2016 - a staggering 61 shots better than any other player in that timeframe. At the time of writing, Koepka is the 7/1 second favourite to match Tiger Woods’ three US Open titles.
It would take a brave punter to back against him, with his last three appearances at the tournament returning back-to-back victories in 2017 and 2018 before finishing three strokes behind Gary Woodland when finishing as runner-up at Pebble Beach two years ago.
He didn’t feature in the 2020 edition in New York due to recurring injuries to his knee and hip, but is seemingly back to his best in California. The event was delayed by 90 minutes due to extreme fog, with 36 players unable to finish their round due to the conditions.
The same couldn’t be said for Koepka, who will fancy his chances of making an impression at the summit of the leaderboard with compatriot Russell Henley heading into the clubhouse with a slim lead.
His ongoing feud with bitter rival Bryson DeChambeau continued as the world number five mischievously jumped up behind Koepka in a juvenile bid to disturb his post-round interview.
DeChambeau claims that he was “just having fun with it”, but it was his so-called rival that appeared to handle the attention better, with Koepka four shots clear in that particular battle.
The well-documented spat appears to have detracted from DeChambeau being six shots off the lead, with Rory McIlory and pre-tournament favourite John Ram hot on the heels of the leaders at one under and two under respectively.
With some of the leading players in the sport very much in the mix, it is very early to be predicting a winner with so much golf left to play.
However, Koepka was visibly devastated to finish second in the PGA Championship back in May as Phil Mickelson made history by becoming the oldest player to win a major just a month shy of his 51st birthday.
Such an emotional reaction to finishing second with an impressive four-under-par finish is testament to the drive of Koepka. In fact, in the last 14 majors in which he has competed, the Florida man has recorded four wins, three second-placed finishes, and two top-six efforts.
His current coach, Yorkshireman Pete Cowen has Koepka down as “a major animal”, and with a record like that to boast of, it’s difficult to argue with him.
If Koepka continues to focus on his golf, as opposed to the continuing media frenzy surrounding the rivalry between him and DeChambeau, there is every chance that he will make it three US Open triumphs from his last four attempts - a feat that not even the great Tiger Woods could manage.
When the fog lifts for the final round at San Diego, Koepka could find himself 18 holes away from pulling off one of the most incredible achievements in the history of the sport.