Brooks Koepka actually had plenty of interesting things to say Tuesday during his press conference ahead of the PGA Championship, which begins Thursday at Bethpage Black. Forget all you heard about him being boring and dull.
Koepka bordered on cocky, proclaiming major championships are the easiest tournaments to win — that he also expects to win double-digit majors during his career. He also said he isn’t afraid of Tiger Woods.
“I don’t see why you can’t get to double digits,” said Koepka, already a three-time major winner, having captured back-to-back U.S. Opens and the 2018 PGA Championship. “I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win. Half the people shoot themselves out of it and mentally I know I can beat most of them. Then from there, it’s those guys left [and] who’s going to play good and who can win. I don’t see any reason it can’t get to double digits.”
You can tell Koepka is starting to feel comfortable being one of the game’s elite players. His shield is starting to come down. He arrives at Bethpage with plenty of confidence after finishing second to Woods at the Masters last month. He’ll get his first chance to go head-to-head with Woods as the two will be paired, along with British Open champion Francesco Molinari, for the first two rounds.
Koepka isn’t unnerved at the prospect of playing in the middle of Tiger’s den. Woods has created a second round of Tigermania by overcoming four back surgeries and winning the Masters for his first major triumph in 11 years. His crowd support should be off the charts at Bethpage Black, where he won the U.S. Open in 2002. Koepka, however, is embracing his chance to steal the spotlight.
“I mean, what’s the point in fearing anybody. We’re not fighting,” he said. “He’s not going to knock my teeth in. He’s not going to hurt me. So what’s there to be afraid of?”
Woods had has his share of rivals during his career. Sergio Garcia, David Duval, Phil Mickelson, and Vijay Singh all took their turns challenging Woods’ supremacy. Koepka might be his latest chief adversary, considering the two have finished either first or second in the last two majors.
“It’s fun to play against him,” Koepka said, “best player to ever play the game. You guys want to talk about rivalry. That’s pretty cool to hear. It’s exciting to me. I’m looking forward to playing with him. It’ll be interesting.”
Koepka is the favorite here — at 8/1 he’s a light betting favorite ahead of Tiger, at 9/1. Koepka is long and straight with the necessary touch around the greens. He has proven he can handle pressure. Had Koepka not hit it in the water at the par-3 12th hole in the final round at Augusta National, he might have won four of the last seven majors he has played in.
“Brooksy has just got pure power,” Woods said, “and he’s an athlete.”
It has been said Koepka deserves more attention than he has gotten for his success, and even Koepka said the same following his victory at Shinnecock last year, when he became the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to successfully defend the U.S. Open title.
But with added attention comes added scrutiny, like criticism over his weight loss for a photo shoot and a reported clash with workout partner Dustin Johnson after the Ryder Cup.
Koepka, 29, is new to all this, but seems to be figuring out his space.
“I’m just trying to be me,” he said. “I think I’m doing a better job of that, letting you guys into my life or not viewing you [reporters] as the enemy, which I kind of did maybe earlier on in my career. This is who I am and I’m not going to change for anybody. I’m just going to show you guys who I really am.”
Oh, and that stone-faced look he carries for 18 holes? That’s by design.
“It’s more not to let anybody know what’s going on in my head,” he said, “kind of keep it a mystery.”
It’s not such a mystery. Koepka believes he’s the best player in the game and he is ready to prove it.
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