Brooks Koepka Ramping Up for PGA; Gets Props from Jim Nantz

IRVING, TEXAS - MAY 07: Brooks Koepka of USA talks to the media during his press conference prior to the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson on May 07, 2019 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
IRVING, TEXAS - MAY 07: Brooks Koepka of USA talks to the media during his press conference prior to the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson on May 07, 2019 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images) /

Brooks Koepka might not always get the media attention that a player with his resume would expect, but that’s okay. He’s back in action at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, and he’s ready to gear up for his title defense at the PGA Championship.

Every golfer has a different method for preparing for majors.  Tiger Woods likes to work on his game away from competition.  Phil Mickelson has often played the week before a major because he likes the pressure of performing in advance of big events. Brooks Koepka is in the Mickelson camp.

“I think Augusta is the only one I don’t do it,” Keopka said to media at the AT&T Byron Nelson. “The rest of them I like to play the week before.”

It’s about getting some momentum, he explained.

“You don’t need to play that great,” he added, noting that last summer he played the FedEx St. Jude and then the WGC Firestone prior to the PGA, which he won. “I like building a little bit of rhythm, finding your game, figuring out how to score, to manage your game.”

He did not practice at all last week, but he was involved in other golf activities. Koepka was the honoree at the Friends of Golf tournament at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.

Then, on Monday he hit a golf ball from Governor’s Island in New York City to a barge floating in the middle of the Hudson River as part of a Michelob Ultra marketing campaign. Because Koepka hit the barge, people in New York City can get a free beer on May 16, the first day of the PGA Championship held at Bethpage Black on Long Island.

This week, his goal is getting back into the basics of his game which is to hit shots the way he envisions them.

“They don’t need to be perfect. If I’m trying to fade the ball into a flag and maybe over fade it or hit it dead straight, that’s fine. That’s the miss you want if you’re going to hit it dead straight,” he explained.

“I’m not so concerned with the little things, you know, like making bogey from a hundred yards or maybe not getting up and down, going for par-5s, not getting up and down. Mainly just how am I hitting it?”

Maybe that’s part of the secret to his success. He’s not seeking perfection. He’s seeking good enough to get the job done. There’s a big difference. Golfers can drive themselves crazy seeking perfection.

Brooks Koepka was not down on himself after the Masters, where he finished second to Tiger Woods. His said his putts at the 17th and 18th in the final rounds were misreads. When that kind of thing happens, he explained, it’s hard to find the victory circle.

“I was pretty happy with how I played,” he said. “I made two doubles. It’s tough to win if you’re going to do that, especially at Augusta. Second place isn’t much fun, but you move on. I think Tiger made it look closer than it actually was with the final score.”

Koepka’s doubles were at the second hole in round two and the 12th hole in round four.

This week, his focus is on the sightlines of the course.  He wants to know, off the tee, where can he miss it if the drive isn’t perfect. The on the shot to the green, he asks himself the same thing.

“I kind of work the hole backwards. That’s kind of one of my things,” he added. “It’s all about pin locations and angles. I think that’s the best way to play it.”

As far as his budding, mano a mano relationship with Woods, he said, they occasionally text.

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Koepka sent him a “ Congrats” message after the Masters. Woods responded with “We’re 1-1.”

Then Koepka said, “Hopefully we’ll make that 2-1 very shortly.” And he didn’t mean Woods being in the lead. He meant defending his PGA Championship title.

According to CBS Sports’ golf anchor Jim Nantz, Brooks Koepka has never received the attention he deserves for his play over the last two seasons.

“It’s borderline tragic in terms of how you cover a player or subject. He’s having the best run in golf since Tiger in 2000 and 2001,” Nantz said in a CBS conference call to preview the PGA Championship.

“We all know he’s won three of the last seven he’s played in,” Nantz continued.

Nantz cited Woods finishing second to Koepka at the PGA and Koepka finishing second to Woods at the Masters.

“We might be on the brink of the next great golf rivalry, the golf rivalry we’ve wanted forever,” Nantz continued, “and no one’s going to talk about it. In my mind he’s the favorite coming into Bethpage, just based on fact.”

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So, while Koepka works on finding his own path on the road to golf superstardom, he has at least picked up one influential fan. Nantz vowed Brooks Koepka won’t be ignored by CBS.