(Reuters) – After three months rehabilitating an “excruciating” left knee injury, world number one Brooks Koepka returns to competition at this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship still not completely recovered but keen to test the state of the joint.
Koepka has not played since slipping on concrete during the PGA Tour’s C.J. Cup in South Korea in October, and says his recovery is still a work in progress.
“It doesn’t feel the same as my right,” the four-time major champion, speaking of his left knee, told reporters on Tuesday.
“It probably won’t for a while, but it does feel stable, which leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month and a half ago, it didn’t feel stable.
“I’ve had problems with it since March. Dealt with it the whole year … I had stem cell done on my knee and it felt fine and then in Korea, just slipped, re-tore it and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad, which was excruciating.”
Koepka subsequently missed the Presidents Cup and did not start practising again until around Christmas time. His appearance this week was not a certainty until quite recently.
Yet he says that playing hurt — he was also out for three months with a wrist injury two years ago — is nothing new and he will not make excuses.
“I don’t want to say this was kind of up in the air, but we weren’t 100 percent on it too long ago,” he said.
“But I don’t think anybody’s ever operating at 100 percent. Everybody’s dinged up a little bit. Nobody wants to hear an excuse so … just get on with it and go play. I mean, I won with it, so I don’t see any issue with it.”
Koepka had the best record in majors last year, winning the PGA Championship, finishing second at the Masters and U.S. Open and fourth at the British Open.
However, he was snubbed by his peers who voted Rory McIlroy as the PGA Tour Player of the Year after the Northern Irishman won the season-long FedEx Cup points race despite a disappointing campaign in the majors.
McIlroy said recently he thought he was the best player in the world “on my day” and Koepka did not bite on Tuesday when given a chance to talk up the rivalry.
“He should believe that,” said the 29-year-old American.
“Everybody playing should think that. I mean, if you don’t think you’re the best player, what’s the point.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Chadband)