TODAY'S PAPER
Overcast 54° Good Morning
Overcast 54° Good Morning
SportsGolf

At PGA Championship, U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka wants to talk baseball

Brooks Koepka smiles during a news conference at

Brooks Koepka smiles during a news conference at the PGA Championship at the Quail Hollow Club on Aug. 9, 2017, in Charlotte, N.C. Photo Credit: AP / John Bazemore

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Brooks Koepka is one of the longest hitters in golf. Having used that attribute to dominate Erin Hills and win the U.S. Open, he spoke on Wednesday about the significance and effect of sheer power. His voice was full of enthusiasm and drama.

He was talking about Aaron Judge.

On the topic of golf, Koepka is reserved, quietly insisting that he has not changed since he became a major champion in June and that he does not look at anyone differently because they have won a major. Sure, he will give everything he has to win the PGA Championship, which starts today at Quail Hollow Club. But he is not going to go wild discussing it. He has said he is not a golf geek.

What he is, is a baseball nerd. “We went down to the All-Star Game, I went with a couple buddies. This is how much of a nerd — we went to batting practice for the All-Star Game,” he said, adding that one guy caught his attention.

“Aaron Judge is really impressive,” said Koepka, great-nephew of 1960 National League Most Valuable Player Dick Groat. “I mean, to watch him hit in that (Home Run) Derby was so impressive. Even in batting practice, he’s hitting those pop flies and they’re covering 330, 340 (feet). It looks like he’s not even swinging.

“He’s a beast, too. He is massive. He’s impressive to watch. I don’t know how me makes it look so easy. I like the fact he was staying in a hotel for a little bit. He wasn’t sure if they were going to release him. My financial people work with him, too, and they said he’s just the nicest guy. So that’s really cool to hear, to have so much success early in his career and be such a good guy.”

Koepka is similarly impressed with Bryce Harper of the Nationals (“He’s a shorter guy, he maxes out everything in his body,” the golfer said). And of course he has deep respect for Giants catcher Buster Posey, a fellow Florida State alumnus who set him up with tickets to the All-Star Game in Miami.

“We went back to the locker room and hung around. A lot of them are big golf fans, so it was pretty cool,” Koepka said. “All I want to do is talk about baseball and all they want to do is talk about golf.”

The talk in and around golf these days involves a cadre of stars in their 20s who are starting to flourish. At the top of that list is Jordan Spieth, 24, who would become the youngest ever to complete the career Grand Slam if he won this week. He wants the trophy more than the distinction.

“I just don’t feel it, it’s not a burning desire to be the youngest to do something,” he said. “It was only two weeks ago that I was able to get the third leg, and that’s so fresh in my mind. I’m so happy about that that I can’t add pressure to this week. I’m free-rolling, and it feels good.”

Koepka continued to roll after Erin Hills, having been in contention behind Spieth at the British Open. And the U.S. Open champion does have a strong dedication to golf — he once chose to play the European Tour to gain experience. It’s just that he always had wanted to be a cleanup hitter.

“Believe it or not, I wasn’t a power hitter in baseball. I couldn’t hit a home run to save my life and I was a sucker for a curveball,” he said.

He went on to describe his appreciation for baseball’s subtleties: a good pitch, a good take, “hitting it to the opposite field with a guy on second.”

When he was asked about the prospect of throwing the ceremonial first pitch at Citi Field when the PGA Tour comes to Glen Oaks on Long Island the week after next, he did not hesitate for a second in saying, “I’d love to.”

New York Sports