For any other golfer, finishing fourth in the British Open would constitute a terrific result, but it was actually the worst showing in a major this year for Brooks Koepka, who quickly fell out of contention with a final-round 74.
Adding to Koepka’s frustration Sunday at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland was the fact that he was paired with J.B. Homes. One of the PGA Tour’s slowest players under the best of circumstances, Holmes struggled to a 16-over-par round of 87, meaning Koepka had that many more occasions to wish his partner would just swing the darn club.
After he shot 3 over to finish the tournament 6 under, nine shots behind the winner, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, Koepka did not blame Holmes for his own disappointing play. But Koepka did point out an area in which he felt Holmes could improve.
“When it’s your turn to hit, your glove is not on, then you start thinking about it. That’s where the problem lies,” Koepka said. "It’s not that he takes that long. He doesn’t do anything until it’s his turn. That’s the frustrating part. But he’s not the only one that does it out here.”
Part of Koepka’s frustration is that he prides himself on playing at a brisk pace. Holmes, on the other hand, has an ultra-deliberate style, with plenty of practice swings and a dedication to plumb-bobbing — even on relatively short putts.
That approach paid off in February, when Holmes came from behind to win the Genesis Open, but it took a 5½-hour final round to stage that comeback. Holmes pointed to the weather that day.
“You play in 25 mph gusty winds and see how fast you play, when you’re playing for the kind of money and points and everything that we’re playing for,” he said. "You can’t just get up there and whack it when it’s blowing that hard.”
At the time, Holmes also said he has “sped up quite a bit” from when he began his pro career, but he acknowledged, “There’s times when I’m probably too slow.”
The windy and wet weather Sunday in Portrush was certainly a factor for many competitors, but no one had anywhere near as bad an outing as Holmes, whose 87 made for the worst British Open final round since 1966. Given that the 37-year-old Kentucky native started the day in third place before plummeting to a tie for 67th, he also, slowly but surely, cost himself about $700,000 in prize money.
“J.B. had a rough day,” Koepka said. “J.B. is a slow player. I know it’s difficult with the wind, but I didn’t think he was that bad today. I thought he was all right. There were times where I thought it was slow. … It was slow, but it wasn’t that bad for his usual pace. It was relatively quick for what he usually does.”
Koepka, who finished second this year at the Masters and won the PGA Championship before another second-place showing at the U.S. Open, has spoken out against slow play in the past.
“I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, or a minute and 15 to hit a golf ball — it’s not that hard,” he said in January (via golf.com). “It’s always between two clubs: there’s a miss short, there’s a miss long. It really drives me nuts, especially when it’s a long hitter because you know you’ve got two other guys or at least one guy that’s hitting before you, so you can do all your calculations, you should have your numbers.”
In February, Koepka mentioned a rule that states players have 40 seconds to make a shot when it is their turn, but that rule is rarely enforced. Slow players, he said at the time, are “breaking the rules, but no one ever has the balls to actually penalize them.”
“A lot of the guys are notable guys, and that’s part of the problem,” he said the following month. “I think a lot of the guys that are the best players in the world are taking their sweet time.”
Still, as much as waiting for Holmes to play might have left a sour taste in Koepka’s mouth, he maintained Sunday that the most frustrating part of his week was his putting.
“I just didn’t make anything. I hit good putts. They just didn’t go in," he said. "And I left a couple putts short right in the middle. So that’s very frustrating.”