On multiple occasions during his remarkable 2018 season, Brooks Koepka made it known that he believes he doesn’t get the respect he deserves. At times, he may have had a point, but for the most part, it feels like a forced narrative the three-time major champion clearly uses for motivation. After all, he was both the PGA Tour’s and the PGA of America’s Player of the Year, not to mention he’s one of the top five betting favorites in any tournament he tees it up in. Despite all that, the guy is still able to operate with a giant chip on his shoulder.
That chip might grow even larger when Koepka sees ESPN The Magazine’s list of 20 most-dominant athletes of 2018, which was released on Tuesday. Koepka, who won two of his sport’s four major titles in 2018, plus the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges this past fall, was noticeably omitted from the list:
Before golf fans grab their torches and pitchforks though, the sport is represented on the list with the LPGA’s Ariya Jutanugarn. And she didn’t just sneak in on the list. She finished at No. 4, behind only gymnast Simone Biles, runner Elliud Kipchoge and MMA fighter Daniel Cormier.
Honestly, it’s tough to argue why Jutanugarn shouldn’t be on the list. As you know by now having read our Newsmakers piece on Jutanugarn, she won three tournaments in 2018. One of those wins was her dramatic triumph in U.S. Women’s Open, which took four playoff holes to secure. She also won every year-end LPGA award she was eligible for: the Annika Rolex Major award, the Leader’s Top 10 award (for finishing in the top 10 17 times), the CME Race to the Globe and its $1 million bonus, the Vare Trophy (lowest scoring average), and the money leader title. Dominant, indeed.
And yet if winning two majors in one season, as Koepka did, isn’t considered “dominant” in golf, we’re not sure what is.
To calculate its list, ESPN evaluated athletes against their peers, and then compare the achievements to other top athletes within the same sport from 1998 until the present. As ESPN’s Peter Keating explains, “So what does Simone Biles’ dominance score of 3.25 mean? In 2018, she was 3.25 standard deviations better than the typical top-four performer in all-around women’s gymnastics since 1998—rendering her the year’s most dominant pro athlete.”
Jutanugarn beat out a myriad of higher-profile athletes—Olympic snowborder Chloe Kim was No. 6, tennis start Novak Djokovic was No. 10, NBA great LeBron James was No. 13, NFL QB Drew Brees was No. 15 and MLB outfielder Mike Trout was No. 20.
But no Koepka feels like an odd miss from ESPN The Magazine, one we imagine Koepka will take note of if his past history is any indication. You could argue all day about who should be taken off the list in favor of Koepka, but the bottom line is he was the most dominant male golfer of the year.