Golf’s two monsters — Bethpage Black and Brooks Koepka
It’s described as the municipal monster.
Correctly it’s called the black course at the Bethpage State Park in New York.
It’s a public course, it has only two par fives and its par is just 70. So it can’t be very long, right?
Wrong. It’s monster long. It measures 6829 metres.
Outside the first tee there is a sign that reads: “The Black Course Is An Extremely Difficult Course Which We Recommend Only For Highly Skilled Golfers.”
But that doesn’t deter members of the public who sleep in their car overnight to obtain one of the first six tee times that are made available each day on a first-come, first-in basis. And for locals the cost is just $US65.
Bethpage Black was the scene of last month’s PGA Championship, the second major event of the year, and the fairways were narrowed and the rough lengthened.
Then along comes big-hitting Brooks Koepka. In the first two rounds he posts scores of seven under 63 and five under par 65 for a two-round total of 128. It’s the lowest two-round total in a major championship, beating the previous record of 130.
Koepka only shot an even par 70 in the third round and his lead going into the final round was seven — the largest final round lead of a PGA Championship and a lead that had never been lost in a major.
Many of the nearest opposition on the final day admitted they were playing for second and Koepka was already being compared with Tiger Woods.
They said Koepka was the monster — there’s that word again — that Woods had created.
Koepka was aged six when Woods won his first major in 1997 and in the space of 11 years Woods had taken his tally of majors to 14.
Victory at Bethpage would provide Koepka with a Woods-like record. He was the defending champion of the PGA Championship and had won the last two US Opens — that would amount to four major wins in less than two years.
But day four at Bethpage did not go to script for Koepka. On the very first hole he made bogey. Worse was to come.
He bogeyed four holes in a row on the back nine and after the 14th hole his lead had been reduced to just one with Dustin Johnson on his tail.
This presented the opportunity for New York sports fans to live up to their reputation as not being the most polite in the world.
Some of them started chanting “DJ, DJ, DJ” but it was more of a taunt directed at Koepka rather than a cheer for Johnson, who was not in Koepka’s playing group.
Koepka said he accepted the criticism.
“It’s New York, what do you expect when you are half-choking it?’’ he said.
“I think I kind of deserved it. If you are going to rattle off four (bogeys) in a row and it looks like you are going to lose it … I’ve been to sporting events in New York, I know how it goes.”
When asked to elaborate, Koepka believed it strengthened his resolve.
“I think it actually helped. I was just thinking, okay, I’ve got everyone against me, let’s go.”
Koepka said his situation was not helped by winds that had got up for the final day and his task was all the more tougher.
“It played so hard today. These fairways are just 25-28 yards wide and I didn’t give myself many chances from the tee — you do that at Bethpage, you are in for a long day.”
Koepka, 29, held on to his lead with Johnson making bogeys on two of his last three holes. Koepka won by two from Johnson to gain the winner’s purse of $US1.98 million.
“This is the most satisfying of all the ones (majors) that I have won.”
One question that brought a smile to Koepka’s face at his press conference was that the 2024 Ryder Cup is to be held at Bethpage.
The Ryder Cup is a United States versus Europe tournament which easily brings out the most vocal fans of any golf tournament in the world.
That was no more evident at the last Ryder Cup in France last year when the European team, the clear underdogs, beat the United States comfortably much to the delight of a raucous European crowd.
The 2024 Ryder Cup might be five years away but the thought of how New York fans would react had Koepka beaming.
“Good luck to Europe,” he said with a wry smile. “With the fans. I can’t wait to play it. I hope I’m on the team. If not, I just want to be here.”