AFTER WINNING HIS FOURTH MAJOR IN TWO YEARS, BROOKS KOEPKA HEADS TO PEBBLE BEACH IN FULL CONTROL

BROOKS KOEPKA will arrive at Pebble Beach Golf Links this month seeking his third straight U.S. Open title—which, like most things with Koepka these days, seems utterly impossible and entirely likely. He was not supposed to win two straight Opens. He was not supposed to follow with two straight PGA Championships. He has turned the expectations of the sport inside-out. How much longer can he do it?

Any attempt to put Koepka in historical context runs the dual risks of overhyping or diminishing him. Yes, what he has done in the last two years is reminiscent of the best runs of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. No, this does not mean he is as good as Nicklaus or Woods. And no, that is not an insult.

Other golfers (chart, next page) have been as dominant as Nicklaus or Woods for a stretch, just as other baseball players can put together a week or two to rival Mike Trout's best. Tom Watson won five majors from 1980 through '83; Rory McIlroy's run of four started with the 2011 U.S. Open and ended with the '14 PGA. But what distinguished Nicklaus and Woods was an ability to play so well for so long.

How can Koepka match them? He must stay healthy. He must maintain his mental state as he gets older. And he will probably have to prove he can win on a variety of layouts.

Because he drives the ball an average of 308.7 yards, Koepka is easily dismissed as a power-hitting bro. The truth is that he is very smart; he has a magnificent short game and putting stroke. And what makes those bombs off the tee so impressive is that he controls them. Of the 13 players ahead of him in driving distance, only one, Gary Woodland, is better at keeping the ball in the fairway.

Koepka's ability to control long drives explains why his four major wins are U.S. Opens and PGAs. The Masters, with its forgiving "second cut" of near-rough, does not demand strict accuracy off the tee. And the British Open, with its ancient, dry, contoured courses and heavy winds, does not require long, towering drives.

The Masters and British both reward creativity and imagination above all else. Koepka has played well in each, at times—he finished second this year at Augusta—but he has yet to win either. Koepka probably can't get to 10 major wins by winning just U.S. Opens and PGAs.

What made Woods and Nicklaus so good, at their peaks, was that on any kind of course, in any conditions, they were the best player in the world. We can't say that about Koepka ... yet. But we can say this: He is the best player in the world at managing his game in tense moments. Dustin Johnson is good for at least one really poor decision in the final round of a major when he contends. McIlroy sometimes has trouble getting out of his own head. But Koepka has the ability to perform under pressure, to think under pressure and to understand how the course and his swing change from day to day.

Last month's U.S. Open win at Bethpage Black illustrates the point. On Thursday his swing was grooved, and he shot a 63 that could have been a 61. But then, as caddie Ricky Elliott later said, "He didn't hit the ball too well on Friday, but his misses were on the fairway." Koepka still shot 65.

Armed with a seven-stroke lead on Saturday, Koepka did not try to protect it or expand it; he simply played the course. He shot an even-par 70. And Sunday, playing in a brutal wind, Koepka finally started struggling, but he never panicked. Many rowdy and frequently obnoxious fans at Bethpage were desperate to see him fail, if only for the theater. Koepka parred three of the last four holes in extremely difficult conditions to beat Johnson by two strokes.

"I do think this is probably even more satisfying than his other wins," Elliott said, and Koepka agreed. It was his most satisfying because, on Sunday, it was the most difficult. But winning major championships is almost always difficult. Koepka cannot make it seem easy forever.

GO FIGURE

Super streaks

After winning the PGA Championship at Bethpage last month, Brooks Koepka became just the sixth player in the modern era to win four majors in the span of three seasons. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have done it twice.

[The following text appears within 8 charts. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual charts.]

1951

[THE MASTERS][U.S. OPEN]

1952

1953

[THE MASTERS][U.S. OPEN][BRITISH OPEN]

BEN HOGAN

1980

[BRITISH OPEN]

1981

[THE MASTERS]

1982

[U.S. OPEN][BRITISH OPEN]

TOM WATSON

1960

[THE MASTERS][U.S. OPEN]

1961

[BRITISH OPEN]

1962

[THE MASTERS][BRITISH OPEN]

ARNOLD PALMER

2000

[THE MASTERS][BRITISH OPEN][PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

2001

[THE MASTERS]

2002

[THE MASTERS][U.S. OPEN]

2005

[THE MASTERS][BRITISH OPEN][PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

2006

[BRITISH OPEN][PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

2007

[PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

TIGER WOODS

1965

[THE MASTERS]

1966

[THE MASTERS][BRITISH OPEN]

1967

[U.S. OPEN]

1970

[BRITISH OPEN]

1971

[PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

1972

[THE MASTERS][U.S. OPEN]

JACK NICKLAUS

2017

[U.S. OPEN]

2018

[U.S. OPEN][PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

2019

[PGA CHAMPIONSHIP]

BROOKS KOEPKA

KEY:

THE MASTERS

U.S. OPEN

BRITISH OPEN

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

BENCHED BY THE METS AFTER TWICE NOT RUNNING OUT GROUND BALLS, ROBINSON CANÓ HAD TO LEAVE A GAME TWO DAYS LATER WHEN HE INJURED HIS QUAD RUNNING OUT A GROUND BALL.

THEY SAID IT

"WHAT'S YOUR TRADE VALUE? APPARENTLY MINE IS A COPY MACHINE."

KYLE KORVER, Jazz guard in his Creighton commencement speech, recalling the time the Nets traded him for cash considerations and used some of that money to buy a photocopier.

NEWSMAKERS

P.22

A LIFE REMEMBERED

P.23

GAMEPLAN

P.24

FACES IN THE CROWD

P.30