Koepka tops world rankings for the first time

Brooks Koepka has capped a fine year by surging to the top of the world rankings for the first time. The 28-year-old American finished 21 under to win the CJ Cup in South Korea by four shots from Gary Woodland at the weekend.

That saw him replace Ryder Cup teammate Dustin Johnson at the top of the world rankings and it may see him finally taken seriously as one of the modern greats of the game.

Koepka is known for having a giant chip on his shoulder about a perceived lack of star treatment. “I always feel like I’m overlooked,” he says, before adding that he could not care less. It is partly an issue of his open making, as he regularly swerves publicity tours and skips late night TV show appearances. “I’m not in it for attention,” he insists. “I’m not in it for anything other than to win.” But whenever he is interviewed, you are left with the impression that Koepka would like to be treated with a greater degree of respect.

He is now a three-time major winner after clinching a second US Open title and The Open in Britain this year. He has been named as the PGA Tour Player of the Year for 2018 ahead of Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau, Open champion Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas. He is now ranked number one in the world too, so his star power could not much be higher right now. The good times are expected to keep on rolling too when you read a Bookmaker review and a search for the best available odds, they show that Koepka is among the favorites for all four majors next year.

He should gain plenty more confidence from his performance in South Korea at the weekend. He chipped in a birdie from the greenside rough at the par-four 16th and displayed great composure throughout. He has the best record on links courses in the world over the past few years and he has remained supremely consistent throughout 2018, so he deserves to be leading the world rankings now.

“To be world number one is something I dreamed of as a kid,” said Koepka. “I don’t think this one’s going to sink in yet. Everything I’ve done this year has been working, so I don’t want to change anything – just keep improving. I’m so excited right now, you have no idea. I can’t wait to go play again.”

Yet a glance at the odds for next year’s majors does show the sort of thing Koepka is up against. He has won the US Open for the past two years in a row, yet he finds himself below Johnson, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy in the betting. McIlroy has not won a major since 2014, so it seems ludicrous to see the Northern Irishman given a better chance of success than Koepka. Next year’s Open will be played at Royal Portrush, one of the trickiest links courses around, and it looks perfectly suited to Koepka’s game. Yet he is below McIlroy, Woods, Johnson, Spieth, Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler in the betting.

Koepka is used to it now. “Sometimes your haters are your biggest motivators,” he says, when asked why golf does not consider him a star. It will just give this gruff, combative young man more fuel, inspiring him to ever-greater heights. All the noise may be around Woods, McIlroy and Johnson, but make no mistake: Koepka is on fire and he is the man to beat in 2019. It will be fascinating to see how long he can hold onto the number one ranking in the world.