PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Brooks Koepka (remember him?) plays better with a chip on his shoulder. His record shows that, attesting to his skill as a golfer, and his ability to keep finding chips.
For instance, during his pre-U.S. Open news conference on Tuesday, he was miffed and mystified about a Fox TV commercial promoting the Open, a championship that he was won an amazing two years in a row.
“I’m not even in it,” he told reporters. “So, I don’t know. You guys tell me…There’s a couple of things where it’s just mind-boggling. It’s like, really? Like how do you forget that?
“I actually didn’t see it for a long time. A bunch of people on Twitter tagged me in it and I guess were amazed that I wasn’t in it. I just clicked on the link and saw it and watched it. Just kind of shocked. They’ve had over a year to kind of put it out. So I don’t know. Somebody probably got fired over it,” he said, “or should.”
Well, a check with Fox indicated that Koepka was, in fact, included in three of four of the network’s U.S. Open promos and was the entire focus in one of them. The only one that neglected him was one that revolved around Tiger Woods’ return to Pebble Beach, site of his 15-stroke win in 2000.
But what the heck. Plenty of other slights come into Koepka’s sight lines as he tries to continue a staggering run in major championships, having won four of the past eight in which he has competed. He has plenty of motivation, aside from the lure of being the first since Willie Anderson in 1905 to win three consecutive U.S. Opens.
He didn’t even bring up the fact that during the final round of the PGA Championship last month at Bethpage Black, some fans were actively rooting against him and cheering for his buddy Dustin Johnson. That is ancient history. He was more interested on Tuesday in talking about how he was in a gym at the RBS Canadian Open last week and hearing one of the patrons rhapsodizing to him about having had the honor of seeing Johnson up close.
Koepka isn’t sure the fellow knew he was talking to a four-time major champion (as opposed to Johnson, who has one major title). “I don’t know if he was just trying to get my attention or what. But he talked about Dustin for about 10 minutes to anybody within earshot.”
Nor has Koepka forgotten how Brandel Chamblee, one of the regular analysts on Golf Channel, was aghast early this year about Koepka reportedly intentionally losing weight to look good in a photo shoot. He mentioned that he occasionally watches the channel and enjoys the work of everyone else on the panel.
All of this might be sheer self-propulsion. Or Koepka might be putting us all on. He does have a good, wry sense of humor. Other players like him. “Brooks is one of my best friends. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing, we’re competing at it,” Johnson said. “Obviously, what he has done if fantastic. It seems like he steps up and plays well in big events. That’s the sign of a really good player.”
Jordan Spieth, whose status as golf’s rising major force has been supplanted by Koepka, called him “a good hang” as in someone you like to hang out with.
Anyone who likes golf ought to applaud Koepka for calling out the whiners on tour. “Put it in the fairway, you shouldn’t have to complain about the rough. You hit the greens and you hit it close, you shouldn’t have to complain about the greens,” he said.
My bet is that people still will be talking about Koepka 114 years from now, at least more than folks are talking about Willie Anderson now. Just don’t let Koepka know how well respected he really is.