Tiger Woods’ news conference at Bethpage Black ended at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, at which time the moderator alerted journalists that Brooks Koepka would be entering the interview room within a minute, so please sit tight.
At least half of them promptly stood up and left.
A minute or so later, there he was, defending champion of the PGA Championship, winner of the last two U.S. Opens — the latter at Shinnecock Hills 11 months ago — and runnerup to Woods at the Masters last month.
Just last week, CBS’ Jim Nantz had said on a conference call promoting the PGA that it is “borderline tragic” how relatively little attention Koepka gets given his resume.
“Poor Brooks Koepka,” Nantz said, noting that nearly an hour into the call, no one had so much as uttered the man’s name in a question.
But Koepka made it clear on Tuesday that he is ready to move past the no-respect narrative, something for which he in part faults himself.
Among other examples, after winning at Shinnecock he told Sports Illustrated he was fueled by watching a list of “other notables” on the Golf Channel leaderboard after the first round and not seeing his name.
“I’m just trying to be me,” he said on Tuesday. “I think I’m doing a better job of that, letting you [reporters] kind of into my life, or not viewing you guys as the enemy, which I kind of did maybe earlier in my career.
“Now, it’s, listen, this is who I am, and I’m not going to change for anybody. I’m just going to show you guys who I really am.”
Koepka admitted his branding issue is both genuine and something he fostered to motivate himself.
“Some of it was a little bit manufactured; I think some of it was quite real,” he said. “I think I said it once, and it just kind of took on a mind of its own. It was just at a point where I’d felt like if other players had done that, it would have been a way bigger deal.”
Koepka understands that with Woods back in the mix, much attention will be focused on Tiger. But he figured he might as well use any perceived diss for fuel.
“I think you’ve got to find a chip or you’ve got to find something to motivate yourself and give you that extra little something going into a tournament or going into an event, to really want to push you over that line,” he said.
Koepka does not lack for confidence. When asked if he has a goal in mind the way Woods famously has sought to match Jack Nicklaus’ 18 career major championships, Koepka did not hesitate. He wants seven more majors.
“Yeah, I’ve got a number,” he said. “I don’t see why you can’t get double digits . . . I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win. 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, and who is going to play good and who can win.”
Wait . . . majors are the easiest?
Koepka did the math: 156 players in the field, “80 of them I’m just going to beat,” then half of those “won’t play well,” then for some of those, “the pressure is going to get to them.”
“It only leaves you with a few more,” Koepka said, “and you’ve just got to beat those guys.”