Defending champion Brooks Koepka watches during a practice round ahead of Thursday's start to the 101st PGA Championship at Bethpage Black
Bethpage (United States) (AFP) - Defending champion Brooks Koepka sees major tournaments such as this week’s PGA Championship as often the easiest events to win and hopes to capture at least 10 before he’s done.
The calm and confident 29-year-old American is already a three-time major winner and has lifted two of the past four major trophies entering this week’s showdown at Bethpage Black.
“I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win,” Koepka said Tuesday. “Half the people shoot themselves out of it and mentally I know I can beat most of them, and then from there it’s those guys left, who’s going to play good and who can win.”
That’s why third-ranked Koepka has set his sights on a double-digit major haul, one that would put him no worse than fourth on the all-time major win list and ahead of such legends as Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan and Gary Player.
“I don’t see any reason it can’t get to double digits,” Koepka said. “I think you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times, I don’t see any reason it can’t.”
There are 155 opponents who would see themselves as obstacles, but Koepka clinically knocks down those odds.
“You figure at least 80 of them I’m just going to beat,” Koepka said. “You figure about half of them won’t play well from there, so you’re down to about maybe 35.
“And then from 35, some of them, pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you’ve just got to beat those guys.”
Third-ranked Koepka would become the first player to be back-to-back reigning champion at two majors at the same time by winning this week. He chases a third consecutive US Open triumph next month at Pebble Beach.
“I have the trophy,” Koepka said. “I’m playing really good. The last time we played this championship, I won. I like my chances this week. If I do what I’m supposed to do, then I think I’d be tough to beat. But at the end of the day, you never know what’s going to happen. You’ve got to go out and play four good days.”
Koepka, however, has learned that you don’t have to lead it until the end.
“One of the big things that I’ve learned over the last few years is you don’t need to try to go win it. Just hang around,” Koepka said. “If you hang around, good things are going to happen.
Defending champion Brooks Koepka stretches during a practice round for the 101st PGA Championship on Tuesday at Bethpage Black
“I think that’s what’s kind of caused me an issue in the regular PGA Tour events. I’ve gone out on Saturday and tried to build a cushion, maybe pressed a little bit too hard and gotten ahead of myself, where in the majors I just stay in the moment. I never think one hole ahead. I dummy it down and make it very simple and I think that’s what helps me.”
“I keep things maybe more low key this week, more a relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes you can out-psych yourself, so I just don’t let that bug me.”
- Koepka: no Tiger rivalry -
Once a club-smashing college hothead, Koepka now works to hide emotions from rivals.
“I’m very stone-faced, very focused, but I also don’t want to give guys an idea of what’s going on,” he said.
“I’m not nervous at all. I don’t feel the pressure. Pressure comes when you’re thinking about results.”
And he’s not interest in being named the latest rival to Tiger Woods.
“I don’t see it as a rivalry. It’s just golf,” Koepka said. “It’s not like there’s a huge history there, although it is fun to play against him, best player to ever play the game.”
And Koepka proudly declares he has no fear of Woods.
“What’s the point in fearing anybody? We’re not fighting,” Koepka said. “He’s not going to knock my teeth in. He’s not going to hurt me. So what’s there to be afraid of?”