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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Two tournaments into his return following a wrist injury, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka nearly suffered another setback.
All because of a golf cart.
Koepka waited until the last minute Thursday morning before deciding to tee off at The Players Championship, and he got around just fine with a 2-under 70 while playing alongside fellow power hitters Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson.
"When I was going to the tee, I felt like I could still win the tournament," Koepka said. "If I don't feel I can win, I'm not going to tee it up."
Koepka was on the back of the range Wednesday, hitting what he described as "punch, stinger 3-irons" that he would need from the tee on No. 18, when a cart appeared from behind a building and was driving some 15 yards in front of where players were hitting.
Koepka said the cart was right in his line, and the ball could have hit the driver, so he instinctively stopped.
"I mean, I unloaded everything," Koepka said, describing how much power he had packed into the swing as he began the downward stroke. "A bunch of guys were around said, 'I can't believe you stopped it.'"
Koepka said the momentum sent the club just beyond the top of the ball, and the force required to stop the swing brought the club back the other direction. When hitting such a shot, the speed of the swing is over 100 mph.
"It's the first time my strength actually backfired," Koepka said with a grin. "I was strong enough to stop it."
But he felt a sharp pain in his left wrist, and it concerned him.
Koepka injured his wrist late last year through what he suspects was wear-and-tear, and he later discovered a partially torn tendon. He had to sit out for 15 weeks, missing the Masters. His treatment included withdrawing bone marrow from his hip and injecting it into his left wrist, along with platelet-rich plasma injections. He was in a soft cast for two months.
Koepka feared the worst. He said he kept his left hand in an ice bucket for 20 minutes at a time through the night, and then gave the wrist a try on the range head of his early tee time.
"The whole range session was pretty pathetic," he said. "We started teeing up little sand irons, hitting those 20 yards. Everything was off the tee for five minutes. It was the smallest divot pattern I ever had. I was afraid to go into the ground."
But it started to loosen up, and Koepka felt good enough to play. He said it felt sore when he finished, and he left the scoring area for more ice treatment.
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