Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods played in the same threesome to start the PGA Championship, and that’s about the only thing that connected them at Bethpage Black. Koepka would outscore Woods by 17 strokes over the tournament’s first two days and go on to win. Woods missed the cut in his first tournament since his stirring Masters triumph in April.
Though the grand slam gulf between Koepka and Woods still is vast — the former has four, the latter 15 — as of now they’re the biggest names in golf (even with Woods’s missed cut). Here’s what to expect from each of them between now and the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, which begins June 13.
Imagine the conversation we’d be having today if Koepka hadn’t put the ball in Rae’s Creek at Augusta National No. 12 on Masters Sunday. The double bogey he carded there doomed his chances, and he finished one stroke behind Woods for the tournament.
Instead, Koepka merely has gone 1-T2-1 in his last three majors while also winning four of the last eight he’s entered. That run will be the talk of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but first the 29-year-old will head north for the Canadian Open starting June 3. Koepka actually missed the cut at that tournament last year, when it was played the week after the British Open in July. This year, the PGA Tour has moved it to a better spot on the calendar, one week before the U.S. Open, and Koepka has shown a preference for playing in the tournament that directly precedes a major.
Koepka also has played the Memorial in odd years during his career, though it’s unclear whether he’ll be in Ohio this year considering that he’s already committed to the Canadian Open one week later. The Memorial begins May 30.
As for Pebble Beach, Koepka’s lone tournament there was at the 2016 pro-am, where he finished in a tie for eighth.
His win on Sunday left him predicting outsize future success, telling CNN he thinks he’ll finish with “double-digit” major titles, “easy.”
“I don’t see why i can’t get to double digits," he said. "I have four now, I’m 29, and they say you don’t peak until you’re in your 30s, so hopefully I peak then.”
Playing his first tournament in five weeks, having barely practiced because of illness and on a course that probably required a whole lot more brawn than Woods can bring to the table at age 43, Woods lasted just two rounds at Bethpage Black. It will be interesting to see how he does moving forward this season: Was the Masters title one last hurrah, or was his PGA Championship flameout simply the result of a confluence of events that he could not overcome?
As usual, Woods was light on the specifics about when we’ll see him next on the course, though the expectation is that he’ll play the Memorial — a tournament he’s won five times — at Muirfield Village beginning May 30 and then the U.S. Open two weeks later at Pebble Beach, site of his historically dominant 15-stroke win at the 2000 version of the tournament.
Woods finished in a tie for 23rd last year at the Memorial in his return to full-time competitive golf. He then missed the cut at the U.S. Open, where he hasn’t played on the weekend since 2013 and hasn’t finished in the top 20 since 2010.
“There’s no reason why I can’t get up to speed again and crank it back up,” he said Friday. “I’ve got to start feeling a little bit better first before that happens. We’ll do that first and then start cranking it back up again.”
Woods hasn’t played Pebble Beach since the 2012 pro-am, where he finished in a tie for 15th, nine strokes behind winner Phil Mickelson. He tied for fourth at the 2010 U.S. Open there, three shots behind winner Graeme McDowell, and won the pro-am there in 2000.
Koepka is the favorite to win the Open at 6/1, followed by PGA Championship runner-up Dustin Johnson at 7/1. Woods is the third choice at 16/1.
U.S. Open odds, via Westgate SuperBook:
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