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Full Swing: Brooks Koepka on PGA TOUR and career struggles

Episode two of Full Swing, Win Or Go Home, documents Brooks Koepka’s struggles to turn his form around, and gives an inside look at his life away from the course. We see a player who was on top of the golfing world between 2017 and 2019, desperately trying to get back – and failing. 

Heading into the summer of 2017, Brooks Koepka was an emerging name in golf, but you could’ve written his professional wins on the back of a postage stamp.

His maiden professional victory came on the European Tour in 2014 at the Turkish Airlines Open as part of the Race to Dubai Finals Series, with his first PGA TOUR win coming in 2015 at the Phoenix Open.

In the second episode of Full Swing, Win Or Go Home, we see footage of Koepka as a child playing baseball – his first love – before switching to golf.

The impression the viewer is left with isn't that Koepka was born to be a professional golfer, but that Koepka was simply born to compete, which makes his post-2019 struggles all the more difficult to deal with.

At the site of his first PGA TOUR win, TPC Scottsdale for the Phoenix Open, Koepka found himself in contention, bidding for a third Phoenix Open title, before an errant tee shot on the 16th on Sunday. 

“I feel very confident,” Koepka said ahead of the 2022 Phoenix Open. “This is pretty much the biggest tournament we have on the PGA TOUR, as far as fans, people... I love it. It almost feels like a real sport.”

It was unusual to hear a professional golfer suggest golf wasn’t a real sport, but it further underlines how Koepka wasn’t born to be a golfer, he was born to compete.

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His bogey at the 16th meant he finished in third place; better than 150 players that week, but worse than two.

In a sport such as golf, where you’re up against 150 players, wins are rare, especially in the modern, hyper-competitive era, and players have to take what they can get out of the game. 

Rory McIlroy went winless throughout the entirety of 2017 and 2020, despite recording four top-10s at majors. But for Koepka, it seems as though finishing second is about as good as finishing dead last.

“I didn’t win. I felt like I should have,” said Koepka after the Phoenix Open. “I missed a good opportunity there to feel like I could jump-start the season. It’s frustrating, because I’m a professional golfer.”

We also see questions being put to him about his week and the final round, and Koepka isn’t in a reflective mood, looking back on how he finished ahead of 153 players; he merely sees that two players finished ahead of him.

But perhaps that is what makes Koepka the golfer he is. First is first; second is nowhere.

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We then see Koepka with his then-fiancee Jena Sims, discussing her bachelorette party, and Koepka admits he’s finding it harder and harder to separate his job from his home life.

We even see the impact it has on Koepka’s then-fiancee Sims, who we see as a bubbly, cheerful personality, always trying to find the positives for her future husband throughout his turmoil, but admits she worries about the future when seeing how much her husband-to-be seems to be struggling not just on the course, but off it too.

"When we first got together he was winning left and right," says Sims. "I do worry about the future."

Prior to his 2017 US Open win, Koepka had just two professional victories and was drifting in and out of the world's top 20. In 2023 terms, he was perhaps like a Cameron Young; he'd been noticed at majors, he had his best years ahead of him, he was clearly a talented golfer, but he'd yet to achieve anything significant in the game.

But his career - and life - would change at Erin Hills in 2017.

Koepka opened his major account with a four-stroke victory, and 12 months later would defend his title - something even Tiger Woods never managed.

Between 2015 and 2020, Koepka's major record read T18-T10-T5-T21-T13-T4-T11-1-T6-T13-1-T39-1-T2-1-2-T4-T7. Eighteen majors, 16 top-20s, 12 top-10s, four wins.

For so long, Koepka had been one of golf's quiet men, passed over by much of the media, but having taken a place at golf's top table, had taken the approach to be more outspoken, forcing the media to sit up and take notice.

One of Koepka's more outlandish claims - though perhaps evidenced in his own results - was that majors were the easiest tournaments to win. 

"There’s 156 [players] in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I’m just going to beat,” Koepka said. 

“You figure about half of them won’t play well from there, so you’re down to about maybe 35. 

"And then from 35, some of them just – pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you’ve just got to beat those guys.”

Koepka also did what so few golfers did, in revealing his career goals, suggesting that he could reach double digits in terms of majors, and it's perhaps something he regrets doing now.

In the second episode of Full Swing, viewers are given an inside look at a player who was undoubtedly the best golfer in the world, clear or Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and the rest, and the first player the rest of the field looked for on the leaderboard at majors, to someone who was no longer even making cuts at majors.

We see Koepka try and use the Masters as a platform to build the rest of his season on. After three consecutive top-10s in majors the previous year, Koepka misses a second-straight cut at Augusta, as a future with LIV Golf beckons.

bet365 are the Official Betting Operator of the PGA TOUR, and you can watch all eight episodes of Full Swing exclusively on Netflix from 15th February.

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