Brooks Koepka takes on new public persona
Golf fans are discovering what Brooks Koepka’s fellow PGA Tour players have known for years: The former world No. 1 is an interesting and opinionated person once you get to know him.
In the past two months, the three-time major champion has opened up to the media, allowing fans to learn his feelings about such topics as slow play, Sergio Garcia’s recent meltdown in Middle East and rolling back the golf ball.
Photos: Players get in Sunday practice
A “different” Koepka started emerging in September at the Tour Championship. Even though he was going to be named PGA Tour Player of the Year, he was not on the pre-tournament interview list to come into the media center. Koepka didn’t bring up the slight, but when asked about it, he answered with both barrels blazing.
“It’s frustrating because I felt like if other guys had down what I’ve done in the past 18 months ... I’m not naming names, but there are certain guys where that would be absolutely incredible,” he told Danny Kanell on Sirius XM radio. “They might have had their face on the dollar bill.”
The reason for the change is that Koepka says he’s established himself on the tour and now has the right to speak out. In turn, that has led to his being asked questions other than the standards such as the state of his golf game, how much he missed playing during his nearly four months out with a wrist injury last year, what he does for an encore after winning two of the final three majors last year and how much he wants to return to world No. 1.
On Tuesday morning, the “new” Koepka makes his first visit to the Masters Tournament interview room. He no doubt would have been invited last year as the reigning U.S. Open champion, but he was unable to play because of the wrist injury. Since his last Masters appearance in 2017, Koepka has won all three of his major championships (the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens and the 2018 PGA Championship).
It should be lively interaction Tuesday with a superstar who has suddenly become one of the most personable players in the game.
“You’re actually probably getting the real me now,” Koepka said at the Honda Classic in late February. “I think before I was just trying to be politically correct and not stir any bubbles and just kind of go on with things and be unnoticed, and to be honest with you, I feel like now where I’ve put myself in the game, I’ve kind of established myself, and I feel like I actually do have a voice, and it will be heard."
As the No. 4-ranked Koepka put it on Golf Channel’s "Feherty" in early March, “I’ve got to embrace the role I’m in. You’ve got to be outspoken, especially when you are one of the best in the game.”
“The thing about Brooks is somehow he was one of the most underrated players ever, and no offense, but nobody really talked to him, so it’s not like he wasn’t speaking his mind, but there was no one to speak his mind to other than us,” said Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA Tour Player of the Year. “I think now he’s a lot under the scope and getting asked questions.”
Koepka starting sharing his opinions more freely during a New York City media tour in early February for May’s PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park, where he will be the defending champion.
“I think a lot of it has to do with you guys asking questions,” he told the media at The Players Championship in mid-March. “Before, the only thing I ever heard was my time in the Challenge Tour, how I’m playing that week, the basic questions. I think you guys started to give me a little bit different questions. I’ll answer them. I have no problem answering them. But if you’re going to give me the same question – I’ve heard the Challenge Tour question 500 times. I don’t know how many times I can give you a different answer. ... I think that’s just come down to more people are asking me different questions now and I’ve got no problem answering them.”
Among the topics Koepka has spoken out on recently are:
• Slow play: In late January, he pointed a finger at Bryson DeChambeau, whose pre-shot routine includes air density and trajectory in addition to normal spin, slope and yardage numbers.
“I just don’t understand how it takes a minute and 20 seconds, a minute and 15 seconds to hit a golf ball. It’s not that hard,” Koepka said. “It’s always between two clubs. There’s a miss short, there’s a miss long. It really drives me nuts, especially when it’s a long hitter because you know you’ve got two other guys or at least one guy that’s hitting before you, so you can do all your calculations. You should have your numbers.”
• Garcia’s meltdown at the Saudi International: In early February, Garcia was disqualified from the European Tour event after the third round for “serious misconduct” after he caused damage to a number of greens with his putter.
“Ugh, it’s frustrating as a player to see, to act like that, to disrespect everybody,” said Koepka, who was playing two groups in front of Garcia and didn’t know what happened until afterward. “To act like a child out there is not cool. It’s not setting a good example and it’s not cool to us, showing us no respect or anybody else.”
• Whether pro golfers are hitting the ball too far: “There’s going to be more of a separation from the long hitters to short hitters. Guys that hit it 270 are going to hit it 240. Guys that hit it long are still going to hit it 300. It really doesn’t matter. It’s really going to affect guys that don’t hit it long, and there won’t be any guys – if they change the ball, you won’t see any short hitters on tour.”