Fans back at Masters as Koepka takes aim at win after surgery

Published April 6, 2021
Brooks Koepka of the United States walks on the 18th hole during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5. - AFP
Brooks Koepka of the United States walks on the 18th hole during a practice round prior to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club on April 5. - AFP

AUGUSTA: Spectators returned to Augusta National on Monday under Covid-19 safety protocols while four-time major winner Brooks Koepka worked out less than three weeks after right knee surgery, hoping to compete in the 85th Masters.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy were among Monday’s early practicing players drawing attention from a limited number of spectators who were allowed into Augusta National under Covid-19 safety protocols.

Fans were barred when last year’s coronavirus delayed Masters was played in November.

Spectators must follow such precautions as masking and social distancing, but their presence will return the roars for spectacular shotmaking that have traditionally echoed among the Georgia pines in April.

Koepka says he believes he can draw his share of roars despite slipping last month in Florida and suffering a dislocation and ligament damage in his right knee.

Koepka underwent surgery on March 16 and spent Easter Sunday playing four holes at Augusta National after a workout session on the driving range.

“I feel I can win,” Koepka said. “I’ll play. I’ll be all right. If I knew I was going to finish second, I wouldn’t have shown up.”

Koepka responded to a report that he could miss six to eight months after the surgery by tweeting a meme showing a photo of former NBA star Michael Jordan with the caption “and I took that personally.”

The confident tone was a sharp contrast to photos Koepka tweeted two weeks ago of himself on crutches with his right leg bandaged.

After battles with left knee and hip injuries in recent years, it appeared Koepka would miss a major tournament for the third time in four seasons.

“We’ve been pretty impressed,” Kopeka said. “The goal was to play Augusta. Here we are.”

Koepka finished second at the WGC Concession event in Florida in February before the surgery, which prompted him to skip the Players Championship and WGC Match Play events.

The 30-year-old American says he did more than seven hours of rehabilitation work every day on his knee and neck and was hitting golf balls a week after the operation.

Koepka won his first major title at the 2017 US Open, captured the 2018 US Open and PGA Championship and defended his PGA crown in 2019, the same year he was second at the Masters and US Open and shared fourth at the British Open.

Among those who also toured the famed course over Easter weekend were Justin Thomas and the duo of Bryson DeChambeau and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson.

Perfect conditions have allowed Augusta National to prepare lightning-fast greens, a major difference from last autumn, when a rain-softened layout surrendered a record-low 20-under par winners total to top-ranked Johnson.

“This looks more like Augusta,” declared American Billy Horschel, who won the WGC Match Play two weeks ago. “There are a lot of shots you need to have around the greens at Augusta National, and that’s something I’ve struggled with in the past. But I spent a lot of time working on them.”

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2021

Opinion

Trouble in Camelot
Updated 06 May 2021

Trouble in Camelot

The electorate knows better than to swallow the government’s rhetoric.
Time to wake up
Updated 05 May 2021

Time to wake up

The criticism reflects our failure to counter rising religious intolerance and bigotry, and also exposes a diplomatic debacle.

Editorial

Proceed with caution
Updated 06 May 2021

Proceed with caution

The slightest loosening of SOP protocols could send us hurling in the direction where India finds itself today.
06 May 2021

IPP dues

THE ECC decision to pay the first tranche of outstanding dues of one set of IPPs, and further delay the payments of...
06 May 2021

Violence against doctors

HEALTHCARE workers and doctors’ associations in two major hospitals of KP are adamant that the KP Healthcare...
05 May 2021

Path of growth

FINANCE MINISTER Shaukat Tarin finally specified the future direction that the country’s economic policy will take...
05 May 2021

Human rights 2020

THE human rights situation in Pakistan, almost predictably bleak every year, was deeply impacted in 2020 by an...
Unreasonable behaviour
Updated 05 May 2021

Unreasonable behaviour

Usman Buzdar should reprimand Dr Awan for her coarse behaviour and make sure she tenders a public apology.