SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — At the lowest points in an 18-month struggle with left knee and hip problems, Brooks Koepka wondered if he'd ever be back at all, let alone recapture the golf magic that carried him to four major championships.
"It's been a wild ride for the last year and a half, and very frustrating," Koepka said. "I've had moments where I didn't know if I was going to be the same, if I could even come back."
He looked as good as ever on the back nine Sunday at TPC Scottsdale, rallying for a victory that would have seemed improbable not that long ago.
"I went through it mentally," the 30-year-old Floridian said. "I think that's probably the toughest thing, where you don't know if you're ever going to be the same competitor that you were. You go through some real dark places, and it's not a fun place to be."
It was sunny and fun for Koepka in the desert Sunday, especially on the 17th hole. That's where he chipped in from 32 yards for his second eagle of the day to break a tie for the lead. A routine par on the 18th gave him a one-stroke victory in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Five strokes behind co-leaders Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth entering the round, Koepka shot a 6-under-par 65 to finish at 19-under 265. He won at the same course in 2015 for the first of his eight PGA Tour titles.
Coming off a career-worst three straight missed cuts, Koepka rebounded from a bogey on the second with a 24-foot eagle putt on the par-5 third and birdied Nos. 13-15.
On the 334-yard 17th, Koepka hit a fairway wood 305 yards to the fairway short and left of the green, then holed out to the largest roar of the afternoon from the crowd, limited to 5,000 a day due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a fraction of the usual size for what is typically billed as golf's biggest party — but still the most at a PGA Tour event since last March.
"I've missed the fans," Koepka said. "Just being around fans is something else. I love it. I've played my best golf with fans, so just need to find something when they're not there."
Schauffele birdied the par-4 18th for a 71 to tie for second with Kyoung-Hoon Lee (68). Schauffele, No. 4 in the Official World Golf Ranking, also tied for second one week earlier in the Farmers Insurance Open at San Diego's Torrey Pines Golf Course.
Lee made a birdie on No. 17 to pull within one of the 12th-ranked Koepka, but then he drove into the right rough on the par-4 18th and had his 34-foot birdie try slide by on the high side.
Steve Stricker, the 53-year-old U.S. Ryder Cup captain who was trying to become the oldest winner on the PGA Tour, closed with a 67 to tie for fourth with Spieth (72) and Carlos Ortiz (64) at 17 under.
"It was a lot of fun," Stricker said. "That's the reason why I come to play in these still. I haven't shown that in the past, but I've been playing better lately. Feeling a little bit better physically, too."
Schauffele and Spieth struggled from the start, with Spieth taking a bogey the first hole after nearly driving into a desert bush. Each had two bogeys on the front nine, with Schauffele making the only birdie between the two on the front side on No. 9. Each drove into the water on 17 to end his chance, then both had birdies on the 18th.
Spieth shot a 61 on Saturday for a share of the 54-hole lead. Winless since the 2017 British Open, the 27-year-old Texan won 11 times — three of them majors — in his first five seasons on the tour.
"Tough start," Spieth said. "I needed to one-putt the last two to not have more than 36 putts today. Felt like I hit good putts, and as much as the lid was open other days, it was closed today."
Baylor School graduate Luke List finished at 10 under after closing with a 67 that included three birdies — and for the second straight round, an eagle. Sunday's big shot was on No. 3, while Saturday's was on No. 13. After missing the cut in six of seven starts from early October to mid-January this season, List has made it to the weekend in three straight events, sharing 21st place at The American Express, 10th at the Farmers Insurance Open and 30th at the Phoenix Open.
Johnson wins Saudi
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia — Top-ranked Dustin Johnson won the Saudi International for the second time in three years, closing with a 2-under 68 — his highest score in the four rounds at Royal Greens Golf Club — to finish the European Tour event at 15-under 265.
That was two strokes clear of fellow American Tony Finau (65) and England's Justin Rose (67). Scotland's Calum Hill made eagle on the par-five 18th to wrap up a 67 and share fourth with France's Victor Perez (69) at 13 under.
Johnson took a two-shot advantage into the final round, but the 36-year-old whose previous win was at the Masters in November struggled on the greens and was caught on the leaderboard as Finau made birdies from 11 to 13.
However, Johnson edged back in front with a birdie on the 13th and was given some breathing room when Finau dropped shots on the 16th and 17th and Perez posted a double bogey on the 16th.
Johnson also dropped a shot on the 16th as his lead shrank to one, but he responded with a massive tee shot on the next hole and a pitch that put the ball two feet away from the cup for a decisive birdie.
"I saw the leaderboard a little bit; the guys were playing well, but I kept giving myself a lot of chances," Johnson told Sky Sports. "I didn't hole many of them but finally holed a really nice putt on 13. Seventeen was a really nice birdie, hit a great drive there and a nice little chip, but it was tough all day today."
A 24-time winner on the PGA Tour, including at the 2016 U.S. Open, this was Johnson's ninth victory on the European circuit.
"I don't get to play around the world as much as I'd like to, but it's definitely nice to get a win not on my tour, and after Augusta, to get my first win again," Johnson said. "Obviously the game is still in really good form, and I'm really excited about the rest of the year."