Koepka takes road less trav­elled to US Open win

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - World - Reuters sports­desk@hindustantimes.com

Brooks Koepka took an un­ortho­dox path to reach­ing the goal of all pro­fes­sional golfers on Sun­day but the 27-year-old Florid­ian said he would not change a thing af­ter claim­ing his first ma­jor ti­tle.

Koepka won the U.S. Open by four shots, clos­ing with a five-un­der 67 at Erin Hills to tri­umph with a record-ty­ing 16-un­der to­tal, reach­ing the pin­na­cle of a pro­fes­sional jour­ney that be­gan five years ago on Europe’s sec­ondary Chal­lenge Tour.

The long-hit­ting Amer­i­can traveled far and wide, from Kaza­khstan to Kenya and main­land Europe, cram­ming into bed and break­fast rooms with fel­low play­ers, spend­ing some nights sleep­ing in cars, and learn­ing about life and how to win.

“Go­ing over to play the Chal­lenge Tour was re­ally, re­ally cool, to get to travel the world at 22 and do what you do for a liv­ing is pretty neat,” he told re­porters with the gleam­ing sil­ver U.S. Open tro­phy by his side.

“To go over there, I think it helped me grow up a lit­tle bit and re­ally fig­ure out that, hey, play golf, get it done, and then you can re­ally take this some­where.

And I built a lot of con­fi­dence off of that.”

Three quick wins in Spain, Italy and Scot­land earned him au­to­matic en­try to the Euro­pean Tour, where he won in Turkey in 2014. A tie for fourth at the U.S. Open that same year helped Koepka earn his U.S. PGA Tour card.

The fast-mov­ing Koepka cap­tured the 2015 Waste Man­age­ment Phoenix Open but de­spite often putting him­self in con­tention, the wins did not con­tinue to flow and from 21 top-10 fin­ishes on the U.S.-based tour, he only had the one vic­tory.

“I’d won once on the PGA Tour, once on the Euro­pean Tour. And I felt like I put my­self in con­tention so many times,” Koepka said. “I felt like I just never fully came to­gether.”

Koepka said he found him­self try­ing too hard to win.

“I’ve been try­ing to win so badly. I felt like I’ve un­der­achieved,” he said. “I just felt like I should be win­ning more... I just couldn’t stand the fact that I’d only won once.”



His friends and pro­fes­sional sup­port team preached pa­tience and pleaded with him to fo­cus TURNED PRO IN 2012:

Joined sec­ondary Euro­pean Chal­lenge Tour, be­fore earn­ing pro­mo­tion to the main Euro­pean Tour dur­ing the

2013 sea­son. Gained his PGA Tour card dur­ing 2014 sea­son less on ob­sess­ing about vic­to­ries and avoid get­ting down on him­self.

Guided by power-hit­ting men­tor and friend Dustin John­son, Koepka ded­i­cated him­self to fit­ness.

“I’ve worked my tail off over the last six months, made some changes, from grind­ing ev­ery day in the gym, try­ing to make sure that I was phys­i­cally ready and strong enough to be able to swing the club the way I wanted to,” he said. This week he re­ceived pep talks from swing coach Claude Har­mon III, master short game coach Pete Cowen and from world num­ber one John­son, last year’s win­ner.

“Dustin actually called me last night and told me the same thing, ‘just stay pa­tient. Just keep do­ing what you’re do­ing.” TI­TLES 2012: Chal­lenge de Catalunya (Euro Chal­lenge Tour) 2013: Mon­tec­chia Open, Fred Ole­sen Chal­lenge de Es­pana, Scot­tish Hyn­dro (all Chal­lenge Tour) 2014:Turk­ish Air­lines Open (Euro­pean Tour)

2015: Waste Man­age­ment Phoenix Open (PGA Tour)

2016: Dun­lop Phoenix (Ja­pan Tour) 2017: U.S. Open

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