By Zack Etter
Five weeks after Tiger Woods ascended back to the top of the golf world by winning The Masters, Brooks Koepka reclaimed his position as the most dominant golfer we’ve seen in major championships since Tiger in the early 2000s. Koepka has won a major in three consecutive calendar years, winning the US Open in 2017 and 2018, and the PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019 – making him the first player in history to hold back to back major titles at the same time. Next month, Koepka will try to become the first golfer to win the same major in 3 consecutive years since Willie Anderson won the US Open from 1903-1905.
Koepka said after his round on Saturday that he believes major championships are “the easiest tournaments to win.” This goes without saying for anybody who has followed Brooks throughout his career. The #1 Golfer in the world has won 4 major championships but just 2 other PGA tournament events.
The recipe for success for Koepka in majors? Stick to a process and treat it like any hole, of any round, in any tournament. “It’s simpler than what guys think,” Koepka explained. “Guys make the mistake of trying to figure out, when they get to a major, what’s going on, what’s different. It’s not. It’s just focus. It’s grind it out, suck it up, and move on.”
I often tell athletes to live “in a world of facts.” Anxiety tends to add made up, or irrelevant details to the circumstances of performance, such as “this is really important,” or “I need a certain result.” Koepka is able to stand on a hole in a major tournament and simply consider what he knows: the distance from tee to green, the strategic approach he needs to attack the hole to give him the best chance to score, the mechanics he’s worked on to make solid contact with the ball. “Where am I on the leaderboard? What is my playing partner doing on this hole? If I bogey this hole, how many strokes back am I?” All of these questions become louder and more difficult to contain at major championships. With less pressure on smaller tournaments, players are more inclined to simply play their game. At majors, with more distractions and more on the line, the mentally strong prevail. Right now, that player is undoubtedly Brooks Koepka.
Similar to past champions such as Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose, Koepka operates using a “W.I.N.” mentality. W.I.N. stands for “What’s Important Now?” Many golfers watch film or the TV broadcast of their round later that night. Because they’ll have that opportunity to analyze their shots and decisions after the fact, there’s no need to consider what’s already happened during the present round. The only question that needs to be answered at all times, is “what’s important now?” If the drive goes into the center of the fairway as planned, what’s important now is picking the right club to use for the approach shot, making solid contact with the ball, and giving yourself a good chance at making a birdie putt. If a the drive went in the woods, what’s important now is the decision Koepka and his caddie would have about how to advance the ball, how to save par or bogey the hole without it turning into a disaster and ruining his round. All of Koepka’s attention, energy, and focus are on that next shot, without reacting emotionally or living in the past.
Consider how the “W.I.N.” approach in sports can translate to all areas of life outside of sports and performance.