When Brooks Koepka outdueled Tiger Woods (and Adam Scott) to win the PGA Championship Sunday afternoon, he joined an exclusive group of golfers with three career major championships to their name. In all of golf history, going back even past the days of Tom Morrises both young and old, only 46 players have ever won three majors. Fewer still have won three in the span of 14 months the way Koepka has, having captured the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens on top of his win at Bellerive Country Club this weekend. Koepka may still have trouble getting recognized by the general public, but he is getting plenty of recognition in golf’s history books.
One weird thing about Koepka, though, is that he hasn’t really done much winning outside of golf’s most prestigious events. Other than that pair of U.S. Opens and this recent PGA Championship win, the only official PGA Tour event Koepka has won was the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open. You don’t have to win a ton of events to make a good living in golf, of course. Koepka has done plenty well for himself, earning nearly $20 million in official money and ranking among the top 20 in FedEx Cup points for four years running. But it’s still striking how much of his success has been concentrated in major championships.
Since the PGA Tour was founded, only two golfers with at least three career major wins — Henry Cotton and Peter Thomson — have had a greater share of their total career PGA Tour wins come in majors than Koepka’s 75 percent mark:
|Rank||Player||Country||Major Wins||PGA Tour Wins||Majors as Share of Wins|
It’s no coincidence that the leaderboard above is littered with foreign-born players who didn’t regularly play on the PGA Tour. For instance, Thomson, an Aussie, won an impressive 84 professional tournaments in his career, but almost all of them were in Europe, Oceania or Asia. Particularly in the early days of pro golf, great non-American players seldom came over to the States to ply their trade, so this metric is a bit skewed for them. That’s why Koepka stands out as the only American remotely close to the top of our list; the next-highest is Larry Nelson at just 30 percent.
One reason for Koepka’s odd ratio: His path to greatness contained detours. It included a stint on the second-tier European Challenge Tour out of college — where Koepka won a lot, enough to gain automatic promotion to the main tour within roughly a calendar year. Once there, he remained a card-carrying member of the European Tour through the end of the 2015 season. Since he didn’t play a full season of PGA Tour events until three years ago, he hasn’t had quite as much time to pile up wins in America as we’d expect just from eyeballing the span of his pro career.
Still, Koepka owns one of the oddest — and most enviable — major records of any golfer ever. The way he’s playing, he’ll probably rack up ordinary PGA Tour wins before too long, but for now he has saved almost all of his winning for the tournaments that matter most.