Well-traveled Koepka settles atop Frys.com leaderboard

By Mercer BaggsOctober 11, 2013, 10:50 pm

SAN MARTIN, Calif. – Let’s go for a ride with Brooks Koepka.

India, South Africa, Kenya, America, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Scotland, England, Wales, Switzerland and The Netherlands. Those are the 15 different countries, since February, in which Koepka (pronounced Kep-ka) has played this year.

And that doesn’t include repeat trips, like five total times to Scotland and once to New York, which could be its own country.

He’s back in the U.S. for this week’s Frys.com Open, and he’s in the lead after two rounds. The 23-year-old Floridian shot 7-under 64 Friday, to go along with his 67 Thursday, and sits alone atop the leaderboard at CordeValle Golf Club.

Through two rounds in northern California, Koepka has made 15 birdies, one eagle and six bogeys. He’s one stroke clear of Jason Kokrak (65), and two clear of Robert Garrigus (63) and Jim Herman (66).

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“The golf course is in great shape, very good conditions, very scorable,” he said. “To get off to a good start was key and just kind of hang in there and keep playing well.”

For all he’s done and everywhere he’s been, this is Koepka’s first regular PGA Tour event. He competed in this year’s British Open (MC) and PGA Championship (T-70), as well as in the Web.com Tour’s WNB Golf Classic (T-40).

The Koepka chronicles began upon graduation from Florida State University in 2012. In his desire to be a “more rounded player” – and because he had no status anywhere – he crossed the Atlantic to compete on the European Challenge Tour, where he won once in his rookie season and three more times this year.

That third victory, which came in Scotland, got him his European Tour card. The top 110 players at season’s end get cards for 2014. Koepka is currently No. 110 with a shade under $300,000.

The current plan is for Koepka to head to China – a new country in 2013! – in two weeks to compete in the European Tour’s BMW Masters and then hope for a couple of U.S. invites the rest of the year. But that could change, depending on this week. If he finishes inside the top 10, he can compete next week in Las Vegas. If he wins … well, that would mean far fewer stamps in his passport, in which he said he had to order an extra 20 pages.

“It would be big. Obviously be nice to win and get status over here,” Koepka said. “But you play good, everything kind of takes care of itself.”

That’s a mature outlook. He credits all the travel for his personal growth. Over the last two years, he’s experienced beauty, culture and horse meat.

Wait, what?

“Yeah,' he said, 'last year we had horse meat in Kazakhstan.'

And there was that time in Kenya that scared the crap-ka out of him.

“I think I arrived at like midnight and I was taken on a little journey, about a three-hour road trip. It was scary, I’ll be honest,” he said.

“It was supposed to be about 15, 20 minutes. … We went down some streets and (the driver) wanted to stop and things like that. It was crazy. I was freaking out.”

But, for the most part, Koepka said world travel has been a tremendous experience. Even if he gets his PGA Tour card, he still plans on playing events overseas. Without the Challenge Tour, he’s not sure where he’d be. Though, where hasn’t he been?

“I didn’t have any status coming out (of college). Didn’t play any Palmer Cups or Walker Cups, anything like that. So I went overseas to play. That was my opportunity over there, and I took advantage of it,” said Koepka, who failed to make it through PGA Tour and European Tour Q-School.

“It’s a learning experience playing over there. I think everybody wants to be a worldwide player. At least for me, that’s what I want to be able to do, play the European Tour and the PGA Tour. Just need to get established over here a little bit more.”

As much as he cherishes his global opportunities, he’s very much enjoying this week in the States.

“Playing in America, I think that’s awesome. My family, they haven’t been able to see me,” he said. “It’s nice for them to see, because they have to wake up so early (to follow his play overseas). And then it’s just the comfort of being over here. It’s just a lot more comfortable, knowing where to eat and things like that.”

Like television.

“Yeah, exactly.  Just the little things. It’s hard to explain. But (a) good bed – you learn to appreciate things like that.”

And not having to eat a horse.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.