Koepka's goal: Become world No. 1

By Doug FergusonFebruary 2, 2015, 8:56 pm

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - For the longest time, Brooks Koepka was known primarily for the stamps in his passport.

His peers knew better.

As he began his first year as a PGA Tour member in the Frys.com Open last October, players would stop when they saw Koepka and watch him walk to the putting green or driving range. The consensus? This guy is going to be good.

More than the words of other players, Koepka now has the trophies to back it up.

He won the Turkish Airlines Open last November during the final stretch of the Race to Dubai on the European Tour. Against an even stronger field in the Phoenix Open, the 24-year-old Floridian went 64-66 on the weekend and played his last 47 holes without a bogey.

Koepka (pronounced KEP'-kuh) was among five players tied for the lead in the final hour, but only after rolling in a 50-foot eagle putt from the fringe on the 15th. He seized control when his 3-wood on the 322-yard 17th hole rolled over the green and stopped a foot from the water.


Waste Management Phoenix Open: Articles, videos and photos


One hole away from his first PGA Tour victory, on a closing hole at the TPC Scottsdale framed by bunkers, he blasted his drive 331 yards down the middle.

It was a strong performance, and it looks even better considering Koepka now has won twice in his last four starts, rose to No. 19 in the world and put his name into the conversation for a U.S. team at the Presidents Cup that is getting younger by the week.

Golf is going through an undeniable generation shift, led by Rory McIlroy, who won in Dubai on Sunday to expand his growing gap in the world ranking. Jordan Spieth, the 21-year-old Texan, is No. 9 in the world. Patrick Reed, 24, won his fourth PGA Tour event at the start of the year.

Koepka was never mentioned in that group when he turned pro because he didn't have their credentials. He was the guy who pursued his career in golf's remote outposts - Kazakhstan and Kenya, Norway and the Czech Republic.

He had a decorated career at Florida State, though he never won a tournament until his senior year (and won three times) and played in the NCAA Championship only twice, never finishing higher than a tie for 18th.

Spieth was a Sunday feature at the Byron Nelson Championship when he was 16, joined Tiger Woods as the only multiple winners of the U.S. Junior Amateur, played on an NCAA title team at Texas and in the Walker Cup.

Reed helped Augusta State to a pair of NCAA titles and reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

Koepka won a Challenge Tour event - the equivalent of the Web.com Tour in Europe - in Spain, and then tried his hand at Q-School for a PGA Tour card. He failed to get out of the second stage, missing by two shots in Texas. He wasn't alone. He tied that week with Spieth.

And that's when their paths went in different directions.

Spieth chose sponsor exemptions, and Monday qualifying if needed, on the Web.com Tour. He got a break by tying for second in the Puerto Rico Open on the PGA Tour after getting a sponsor exemption. Then came a rocket rise - Tour status in May, a victory in July and a spot on the Presidents Cup team in October.

Koepka headed for the airport.

He had status on the Challenge Tour from his win at the Catalunya Challenge, and he won in Italy in May. He followed with victories in Spain and Scotland to earn an instant promotion to the European Tour, each step bringing higher status. And he already had more wins than he did in college.

''Whether it be success or failure, I have learned a lot,'' Koepka said. ''I think I won maybe two, three times in college. But it's funny. Looking back, I have won on the Challenge Tour, one in Europe and one here now. It's been special. But my drive, I think, is what it is. I want to be the best player in the world. I'm not there yet, and I know it's going to take time. But I want to get to that point.''

And he runs in good circles. His roommate in Florida and frequent travel companion on the global road of the European Tour was former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein, who tied for 13th in Dubai.

He also plays practice rounds with McIlroy, whom he knows from Europe and living in South Florida, though they rarely see each other at home.

Koepka says he might be a late bloomer, though hard work cannot be dismissed. And he has no qualms with where he went to get to where he is now. He wanted experience. He wanted four rounds on Challenge Tour events instead of being hopeful for exemptions or lucky with Monday qualifiers.

He can't complain about the results.

Getty Images

What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

Getty Images

Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

Getty Images

Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.