Brooks Koepka’s bold Masters claim weeks after ‘holy crap’ injury

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Just days ago, the scuttlebutt around the PGA Tour was that Brooks Koepka not only wouldn’t be able to play the Masters, but he might be out for an extended period of time because of a right knee injury that forced him to withdraw from the Players Championship last month and required recent surgery.

Yet late Sunday afternoon at Augusta National shortly after the club’s annual Drive Chip & Putt competition was completed, the 30-year-old Koepka was playing a four-hole loop with his caddie, Ricky Elliott in tow.

Afterward, he spoke to a small group of reporters and said, in no uncertain terms, that he’ll be playing the Masters this week.

“If I knew I was going to finish second, I wouldn’t have showed up,’’ Koepka said, channeling his inner Tiger Woods. “So, I feel like I can win.’’

The four-time major championship winner, who is ranked 12th in the world, said he suffered a dislocated knee cap and had March 16 surgery to reattach a ligament and “clean up whatever had broken off from the knee cap.’’

Koepka has been cryptic about how he actually sustained the injury, telling Golfweek three weeks ago, “An accident happened while I was with my family over the weekend.”

Describing the injury on Sunday, Koepka said he “slipped and slowly went to the ground.’’

“When you look down and your leg is kind of going that way and your knee’s that way, you kind of go, ‘Whoa, holy crap,’ ’’ Koepka said. “I went and got an MRI the next day [a Monday]. We got the results and made a plan.’’

That plan was to do everything possible to get back in time to play the Masters, but even Koepka conceded that felt unrealistic at the time.

“Right away, I was like, ‘There’s no chance,’ when you’re in the brace and [the knee is] all wrapped up,’’ Koepka said. “I don’t think anybody expected [such a quick recovery]. We were hopeful that we were going to be here at Augusta, but you never know. I talked to ‘Doc’ and we said the goal was to play Augusta, so he was going to do [the surgery] and see if we can play … and here we are.’’

Koepka, who said he’s been rehabbing seven hours a day, said he was hitting balls six or seven days after surgery. In the past week and a half, he said he’s walked and played nine holes a couple times at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where he was rehabbing.

“I’ve walked enough,’’ Koepka said. “We’ve been building up for this. Now it’s just about managing the hills and trying to find the flattest routes [to walk].’’

Koepka was sidelined for three months after injuring his left knee slipping at the CJ Cup in South Korea in 2019. Then, compensating for that knee led to a labrum injury in his left hip, and more recently he has had stiffness in his neck.

This latest injury came at a time when he had rediscovered his form, winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February and tying for second in the WGC-Workday Championship.

Koepka finished runner-up to Tiger Woods at the 2019 Masters and finished tied for seventh last November.

Asked if there’s any doubt he’ll play this week after how he felt Sunday, Koepka said, “Oh, I’ll play. I’ll be OK.’’

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