After parring the 18th hole, Koepka walked off the green like a man leaving the grocery store with supplies for a barbecue. Though his face did not show it, he was excited, really.
“Did you see that fist pump on 18?” Koepka said.
With his laid-back demeanor and long-hitting dexterity, Koepka has much in common with last year’s champion, Dustin Johnson, who missed the cut at Erin Hills. They are good friends, and on Saturday night Johnson phoned Koepka, who at the time sat one stroke off Brian Harman’s 54-hole lead. Their conversation was lengthy, for them: nearly two minutes, by Koepka’s estimation. Johnson reminded him to stay patient and not to get ahead of himself.
Until this past week, patience had done little to guide Koepka, who has been in a hurry since he turned pro in 2012 after a solid college career at Florida State. He eschewed the beaten path to the PGA Tour — through the Web.com circuit — to play in Europe, where he thought he could improve his game, and his world ranking, more quickly.
He joined the European Tour in 2013 and won the Turkish Airlines Open a year later. He got his first PGA Tour title at the 2015 Phoenix Open.
In an interview with Golf Digest in 2015, Koepka said that in his mind, he saw himself as part of an exclusive group with Spieth, McIlroy and Jason Day, who had just won the P.G.A. Championship three months shy of his 28th birthday. “Even though I’m not in it — nowhere near it,” he said.
Going into this tournament, he had over $10 million in PGA Tour earnings but felt an emptiness that only trophies could fill.