Leading lights missing the Masters and a returning women’s great feature in this week’s AFP Sport golf talking points:
Already shorn of car-crash victim Tiger Woods, the Masters next month looks as if it will take place without another former world No 1 after Brooks Koepka revealed he has undergone knee surgery
The 30-year-old four-time major winner posted images to his Twitter and Instagram accounts Sunday on crutches and with a bandage on his right knee.
“Only 1 way to go from here,” the caption read, with an upward-pointing arrow emoji.
Golfweek reported that Koepka had confirmed via email that he had knee surgery last Tuesday for a dislocated knee cap and damaged ligaments after an accident while with his family a couple of days earlier.
Koepka must be rated highly doubtful for the Masters, which begins in a little over two weeks’ time on April 8, and is in danger of missing his second major in the last three after the US Open at Winged Foot in September (left knee).
Koepka dominated the majors from 2017-19 with back-to-back US Opens (2017-18) and PGA Championships (2018-19).
But injuries began to take a toll. He missed three months after hurting his left knee while slipping on wet concrete at South Korea’s CJ Cup in October 2019.
Last month at the WGC-Workday Championship he complained of a stiff neck, but finished in a three-way tie for second.
Koepka won last month’s Phoenix Open for his first title since July 2019 and had been installed as favourite in the betting for Augusta, but looks unlikely this year to have a chance of improving on his best Masters finish.
Koepka was runner-up by a single shot as Woods won his fifth green jacket in April 2019. Two years on and both he and Koepka, it seems, will be watching on TV instead.
One person who will be playing in the Masters is Australia’s Matt Jones, who earned his spot with a dominant five-stroke victory at the Honda Classic on Sunday.
The 40-year-old from Sydney started the tournament with a course record-equalling 61 and cruised to his second PGA Tour title, and first since 2014 at the Houston Open.
But he was hardly “snapping a seven-year win drought” as some of the reports from the US golf media proclaimed.
Believe it or not, other golf tours exist outside the US, and Jones has a pretty good pedigree.
He has won the prestigious Australian Open twice since his previous PGA Tour win, beating the world’s best in the process.
His 2015 victory saw him beat then world No 1 Jordan Spieth by a stroke.
It was no mean feat. Spieth was the defending champion and at the height of his powers having won the Masters, US Open, Tour Championship and FedEx Cup that year.
But Spieth had to settle for tied second behind Jones along with former No 1 Adam Scott.
Jones’s win also prevented a Spieth Aussie Open hat-trick, the American regaining Australia’s flagship title the following year.
Jones won it again in 2019, holding off major-winner Louis Oosthuizen by a single stroke that time.
His previous Augusta appearance came the week after his Houston win in 2014, when he said he was “knackered” as he went on to miss the cut.
“Monday was washed out, then I had the par-three tournament. I can’t really remember the golf course. I can’t remember much about that week. It was all a blur,” he admitted this week.
“I’m looking forward to getting some preparation on the course this year.”
Michelle Wie West returns to action at the LPGA Kia Classic this week for the first time in nearly two years, and as a mum.
After struggling with arthritis in both wrists in 2019, she took time off, got married to Jonnie West, the Golden State Warriors director of basketball operations, and in June 2020 gave birth to a daughter, Makenna.
Wie West has never been far from the headlines since becoming the youngest player to qualify for an LPGA event in 2002 at the age of 12.
Three weeks ago she gained plaudits for lashing out at Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who had talked about looking at Wie’s underwear as paparazzi took photos at a 2014 charity event.
“It’s unsettling to hear of this highly inappropriate story shared,” Wie West tweeted.
“What this person should have remembered from that day was the fact that I shot 64 and beat every male golfer in the field.”
Now 31, Wie West is entered in the year’s first major next week, the ANA Inspiration, and aims to be around for a long time yet with an ambition of Makenna seeing her compete on tour.
“I just want that experience of her, of Makenna watching me play and hopefully watching me come down the stretch and win a golf tournament,” said Wie after giving birth last year.
“That would just mean everything to me because I want her to grow up and be a strong woman and all the things that I value, and hopefully whatever she values.”