Brooks Koepka defended his title and won his second consecutive PGA Championship on Sunday, putting him in exclusive company. Koepka’s career is young, but he’s already established himself as a big-time player who shows up when the spotlight is brightest. He’s now won four of his last eight major championships, and his run of success brings up an intruiging question: Could Koepka end up with more majors than Tiger Woods?
I’ll be the first to admit that it’s too early to consider it a legitimate outcome, and in no way is this a suggestion that Koepka could ever be what Woods was, and is, to the game of golf. All sports have stars who shine brighter than them all, only to flame out after a brief run of success similar to Koepka’s. But his accomplishments over the last year are unmatched in golf history. What would it take for Koepka to overtake Woods in the major wins department?
Right now, Koepka sits at four major wins, while Woods has 15 over the course of his illustrious career. Unlike Woods, Koepka is a late bloomer who has won all of his major championships over the last two years. There’s no reason to think Koepka’s best days are behind him, but it’s unreasonable to suggest he will continue his torrid pace. Woods, on the other hand, is in the twilight of his career at 43. His Masters win was a great day for all fans of golf, but nothing during the tournament suggested Woods would rise to the heights of previous years and become the dominant figure in golf once more.
Let’s say Woods doesn’t win another major- a depressing thought, but a realistic one at this point. The prime of a professional golfer doesn’t have the same clear parameters that a typical pro athlete exhibits, but believing Koepka has at least another five years of high-level play isn’t an outrageous outlook. He would have to win 12 majors in that timespan to overtake Woods. In the improbable scenario he continues on the pace of winning an average of two majors per year, it would take him six years to pass Woods.
In a more realistic scenario, Koepka is good enough to be in contention for at least one major win per year. He’d have to stay at that level until he’s 41, a tall task for any player not already on the Mt. Rushmore of professional golfers. At his best, Koepka is indeed that good. But between recency bias playing a factor and his lack of non-major victories, no one can say with certainty that he has the stuff to overtake Woods.
His four rounds at Bethpage Black this past weekend exhibited all the attributes the greats have in the past, from a dominant opening day to overcoming self-inflicted wounds through brutal weather in the final round to lift the trophy. But this is a conversation that can be revisited if he keeps up his play over the next few years, and until then it will merely remain a fun hypothetical to argue about over beers after a round. For now, we can admire Koepka’s dominant run. Let’s not put him in the same category as Woods quite yet.