The spotlight is shining directly on Brooks Koepka this week as the Shriners Children’s Open begins Thursday at TPC Summerlin. He wants to keep it that way as the week progresses.
The most high-profile player in the field, Koepka is hoping to put 2021 behind him, a year he calls disappointing. Such are the standards when you’ve won four major championships in the past four years.
Koepka’s 2021 included a win at the Waste Management Open outside Phoenix, a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship and top-six finishes at the U.S. Open and British Open.
Most everyone at TPC Summerlin this week would love to have such a disappointing year.
“I just want to keep winning. I think that’s the goal,” he said of his hopes for the new season. “That’s what I’m out here to do is to win, to win multiple times and then probably stay healthy is probably a good goal.”
Koepka did deal with an array of injuries throughout the year, with issues with both his hip and knee at various points of the season. But his performance at the Ryder Cup two weeks ago gives him confidence his body is feeling better and his game is on the right trajectory heading into two consecutive weeks in Las Vegas.
If he hopes to win this week, Koepka will most likely have to go low. Really low. Martin Laird won last year at 23-under 261 on a course that offers little resistance if the wind isn’t blowing.
“Last year shocked me a bit with the 7-under cut. That was very, very low scoring,” Louis Oosthuizen said of the tournament. “It’s a golf course that has, off the tee, wide fairways and you can really, really attack it. You’re going to see a lot of birdies around this golf course.”
Koepka knows if his game is on, he’s ready for that challenge.
“I’ve always liked it here,” he said. “I think it’s always been a good course for me. I’ve either kind of been right up there with a chance to win, or it’s just been two days and pack your bags.”
Koepka says he’s ready to play, even though time off could help with all the nagging injuries.
“I always try to take my breaks, but I like playing if I can play a couple of weeks in a row,” he said. “Usually my first week out isn’t very good … my second, third week out is usually the better of it.”
Koepka’s Ryder Cup teammate, Scottie Scheffler, also chose to play the Shriners not only to get his competitive juices flowing, but to avoid falling behind to start the season.
“I wish there was more time where there was no tournaments going on,” Scheffler said. “But if FedEx Cup points are being accrued and guys are out here playing and winning tournaments, I feel a little bit weird sitting at home.”
Koepka, Scheffler and Oosthuizen are among a large contingent of players in the field who will remain in Las Vegas for another week to play the CJ Cup at The Summit Club. It’s a course few of the players have ever seen.
Scheffler said those playing the Shriners might get a little jump on the competition next week.
“Luckily, we’re in the same city already, so I won’t be in a rush to get out there,” he said. “I’ll have plenty of time to get used to the course and the environment.”
Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.