Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy, whose combined age equals just 49, completed early-season statement victories Sunday in similar fashion. Two of the longest hitters in the game, Koepka and McIlroy each bombed their way to the winner’s circle, averaging well over 300 yards a piece off the tee in their respective events.
The pair also excelled at hitting greens in regulation. McIlroy finished fifth in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic field at 83.3%; Koepka finished T4 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open with 75%. Koepka and McIlroy have parallel styles of play, as evidenced by how they came about their respective wins in deserts some 8,000 miles away.
One difference? Koepka’s name isn’t quite as familiar as McIlroy's. Allow the first tee starter at the Waste Management to demonstrate…
The way Koepka's currently playing, this will be the last time anyone makes that mistake.
While their stat lines mirror each other, the Dubai Desert Classic was McIlroy’s tournament to lose coming down the stretch Sunday. He led the field by four shots after 54 holes and needed only a two-under 70 (his highest round of the week by four shots) to secure the three-stroke triumph over Alex Noren.
McIlroy employed an 8.5° Nike Vapor Pro driver with a MRC Diamana S+ XTS 70X shaft, leading the Dubai Desert Classic field in driving distance with an average of 317.9 yards. He also used Nike VR Pro blades, a slightly older version of Nike blades.
Koekpa’s victory was less predictable; the 24-year-old found himself in a three-way tie for second after 54 holes, three shots behind overnight leader Martin Laird. But Koepka’s hot finish Saturday afternoon (six back-nine birdies to come home in 30) bled into Sunday when he birdied the 6th and 7th holes (after two approach shots to within seven and four feet). He then birdied the par-5 13th and eagled the par-5 15th after chipping in from just in front of the green.
With a one-shot lead on the 72nd tee box, Koepka piped a drive 331 yards down the middle of the fairway and never looked back. Here’s a look at Koepka’s driver, the Titleist 915D2, 9.5°, with a 72-gram Mitsubishi Diamana White extra-stiff shaft; he finished fifth in driving distance at 301 yards. Also included are the Titleist 714 CB irons Koepka plays.