MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Former world No. 1 golfer Brooks Koepka, who will try to defend his WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational title this week and then become the first three-peat winner in the stroke-play era of the PGA Championship next week, said he still has pain in his left knee but won’t decide whether to have surgery until after this season.
Koepka, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the world, hasn’t played well in his last three events, missing two cuts and finishing in a tie for 62nd at the Memorial. He shot an 80 in the fourth round of the Memorial, the worst final-round score of his Tour career.
Koepka, 30, partially tore the patella tendon in his left knee last year. He had an MRI on the knee before the Memorial earlier this month. “The tear has to be worse to go under the knife, but we’ll see how it goes,” Koepka said. “We’ll see when my season ends and go get stem cell again, most likely, and figure it out from there.”
With only one top-25 finish in 10 events in the abbreviated season, Koepka ranks 155th in the FedEx Cup standings, 1,753 points behind leader Justin Thomas. The top 125 players in the standings qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs. After this week’s tournament, there are only two events left before the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin at the Northern Trust at TPC Boston on Aug. 20-23.
“It’s definitely been frustrating,” Koepka said. “It will test you mentally, but at the same time, I’m looking at it as a challenge and something where I know … it will turn around eventually. It’s going to turn around. You don’t work that hard for nothing. Starting to see signs of it. Now it’s just about going and doing it. Whether it be this week, next week, a month from now, two months from now, whatever it’s going to be, it will pay off.”
Koepka said the knee injury has affected his swing and his conditioning program. He had stem-cell treatment on the knee after the season-ending Tour Championship in 2019, and then re-injured his patella tendon when he slipped on wet cement at the CJ Cup in South Korea in October. That caused him to take a three-month break from golf and miss the President’s Cup in Australia.
Nine months later, Koepka said his left knee doesn’t feel much better.
“It will get sore if I beat balls long enough, and I’ve had some lengthy range sessions over the past two weeks where it’s been five-plus hours,” he said. “I’ll come back, I’ll ice it. It limits what I can do. I don’t know how to explain this well, but I can’t run. I can [but] I take these little steps and try to do it very quickly. That’s kind of my run right now. Biking, I can do it like once a week without it really flaring up and getting too painful. Can’t do much cardio. But it’s definitely changed a lot of things for me, that’s for sure.”
After missing the cut at last week’s 3M Open, Koepka worked with short-game coach Pete Cowen for the first time since the Tour shut down at the Players Championship in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I feel like I’m getting better and better every day,” Koepka said. “I think last week I saw signs of it, made some adjustments this weekend as far as just seeing how scared I was to get on my left side. … You can battle through it all the time, but still, pain will make you adjust really quickly, and just seeing where I was. Made a few adjustments in my setup just to kind of help ease it and help get my body through that.”