Having watched the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in New York, my long-held theory that if you wish to produce your best golf and compete at the highest level you simply have to put in the hard work in the gym and be as fit as you can possibly be.
Both Brooks Koepka and Dustin Johnson have clearly been lifting the weights to get themselves into top physical condition. I’ve been preaching this practice throughout my career and now in my 80s, I’m still working on my fitness on a daily basis.
I’ve got to say that Brooks’ first 36 holes in the PGA was among the finest opening two rounds I’ve ever seen. To shoot 63-65 and take an outstanding runaway lead was an impressive start. When Dustin mounted a challenge and Brooks began to drop shots during the final round, Koepka managed to keep his head and close it out for a 2-shot victory.
How many times have we seen someone roar away from the pack by six or seven shots only to be heralded prematurely as the outright winner by the commentators and media – and then see the chasing pack close the gap on the leader who falls short of victory. I can recall many great players taking a six or seven stroke lead at ‘half-time’ and then see it slip away.
Having established a convincing lead it was a remarkable effort for Brooks to end his bogey-run and stay ahead of the field to finish with a final round 75 to take another Major. His record of four Major wins from the last eight is quite an achievement and I predict we will see several more.
I was hugely impressed with the performance of Matt Wallace, who flew to New York on the Sunday night of the tournament week, immediately after finishing one shot behind Sweden’s Marcus Kinhult, at the British Masters hosted by Tommy Fleetwood at Hillside Golf Club. Wallace was on the verge of victory in Southport but had to settle for a three-way share of second place. At Bethpage Black he was tied third and is clearly a confident young man who is going places.
I can’t explain the unruly behavior of some of the Bethpage spectators, booing Brooks and other players, particularly on their backswing. It’s bad sportsmanship, bad manners, and totally unfair. Maybe it was over-excitement – but it should not part of our game. You have to learn how to make yourself oblivious to that sort of barrage from the galleries – and Brooks did just that, even using it to his advantage as it strengthened his focus. I suffered during the apartheid era and I can say it takes a lot of mental strength and courage to switch off to that sort of intimidation.
It will be interesting to see how the crowds behave when The Ryder Cup comes to Bethpage Black in 2024. I believe that the Europeans will come out on top, due to the fact that they hit the ball straighter than the United States players.
Right now I’m in the United States. I’ll be at Pebble Beach for the US Open with Retief Goosen and then I’m flying to Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland for The Open Championship and a promotion with the R&A.
Article courtesy of Worldwide Golf