Brooks Koepka is more fired up than ever to create history at the US Open this week following an extraordinary snub by host broadcaster Fox.
The 29 year old Floridian makes no secret of liking to play golf with a chip on his shoulder and it will now be granite-like as he seeks to become the first man in more than a century to win the event three years in a row.
Koepka was watching an advert recently for the festivities here at Pebble Beach and was stunned to find he wasn’t part of it.
‘I was shocked, to tell you the truth,’ he said. ‘I mean, they’ve had a year to work on it and it’s mind boggling to me that I wouldn’t be part of it. That doesn’t make any sense at all to me.’
His indignation is understandable given he has won four of the last eight majors he has entered, even if it is manufactured to add fuel to the fire.
‘I’ve never made any secret that I like playing golf with a chip and part of that comes from placing it there myself, and part when you see things like that Fox commercial,’ he said. ‘You guys tell me. I’m not one of the notables after winning the last two? How do you forget that? Somebody probably got fired over it. Or should.’
Koepka believes his chances this week have been helped further by what happened on a dramatic last day at the USPGA Championship at Bethpage last month, where he saw a seven shot lead disappear in the space of four holes, before composing himself to complete a successful defence.
‘For about an hour out there I was stunned and didn’t know what was happening,’ he confessed. ‘I’m very proud of the fact I was able to ride it out and how I played 15 and 16. That’s a big advantage knowing I can do that when the pressure is on.
‘You need to do that at a US Open. You can be four over after four holes without doing a lot wrong. Now I know that I can right the ship if that happens.’
A man with seemingly no weaknesses, from his booming drives to a silky touch with the putter, Koepka complements his formidable arsenal with a refreshingly uncluttered approach to majors.
The set-up this week hardly plays into his hands, since the narrowness of the fairways will mean he might only use his driver two or three times. ‘You might spin it that way but the way I see it, I’ll be hitting a three iron to certain spots where the short hitters will be hitting three woods, so that still gives me an advantage,’ he said.
‘I see this major as no different to any other. If I do what I’m supposed to do, I’ll be up against 35 guys. A lot of those will struggle with the pressure, so then you’re down to a lot less than that, and at that point it comes down to who plays the best and who holes the putts. I don’t know if I’ll be able to intimidate anyone else.
‘You’d have to ask the other players. All I know is that if I was one of them and I saw my name on the leaderboard on Sunday, I’d be thinking: ”Not again, really?”’
Koepka is only vaguely aware of the immigrant Scot Willie Anderson, the man he’s seeking to emulate in winning three years in a row.
‘I was in Scotland last year and saw his name on a building, so that was cool,’ he said. ‘He did it over a century ago, didn’t he?’
Suffice to say, he never felt the need to google Anderson’s name to find out more about him. Only once did the mask slip, when he permitted a thought of what’s on the line this week.
‘When you think how rare it is for a player to win a regular event three years in a row, imagine winning a third US Open at Pebble,’ he said. ‘As a kid, you dream of simply playing in a US Open here. To defend it again on this course? That would be the coolest thing ever.’