June 11, 2019
MIKE TROSTEL: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to welcome two-time defend U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka into the Media Center, the back-to-back PGA champion, playing in his 7th U.S. Open. There have been a lot of historical comparisons in the last couple months, Willie Anderson, one that comes to mind. How have you had a chance to think of that with the run-up of the championship? Are you just trying to focus on the task at hand?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I've had 12 months to think about it. I saw something that I think about every day, I just try to put that in the back of my mind, it's just another golf tournament. I have to go out and do what I'm supposed to do. And looking forward to -- it's going to be a tough test this week, we you all know that. It's such a special place. It will be cool to play a U.S. Open here, for sure.
MIKE TROSTEL: You mentioned Pebble is a special place. What makes it so special in your eyes?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Just the history behind it. You look at the guys that have won here at Pebble, all Hall of Famers, some of the greatest players that have ever played the game. How can you not like the views? It's a cool place just to play golf and just to be here. It really is special.
MIKE TROSTEL: You've had a chance to go out and play the course a little bit. What do you think of the conditions and the setup so far?
BROOKS KOEPKA: The setup is really good. The rough is definitely going to be a factor this week, we all know that. It's very, very thick. Very juicy. You've got to put the ball in the fairways. Not many drivers here. I don't need driver that much, maybe four times this week. But you need to put the ball in the fairway. These greens are so small, you can almost put it in the center of every green and have 20 feet, no matter where the flag stick is.
It really comes down to who's going to make putts. These are some of the best poa greens that I've seen.
Q. As you look back at Bethpage last month, do you believe that the way it unfolded on Sunday will, in the end, be more beneficial to you and your career than had you just cruised to victory? Everybody says I'd rather have a 10-shot lead and then a 12-shot win. How do you think that will help you and how you righted things at the end?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I think it could, just for the fact that I was stunned. I was kind of shocked and in awe for about an hour there, making four bogeys in a row. And didn't really know what was up at that point. And then having to recorrect things and kind of reset myself. It's definitely a big advantage. I mean, we all know in U.S. Opens you could be 4-over through four very easily. And you look at it like this week, you get off to a tough start, and all of a sudden I've got to reset.
And now I know how to do that under pressure. I know how to do that and really handle myself and kind of right the ship. I think that's going to be important going forward. I was lucky enough to win it. But a U.S. Open is a different test. That's kind of why you play so well early on in the week. On Sunday you can let a few things happen. But I think it will definitely be a big advantage going forward.
Q. You said last week that it was nice to have the chance to soak it in a little bit, your win at Bethpage. What does that look like in your world? What did you do to savor that win?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I just spent it with friends the first night. And we had a great time, a couple of my buddies came down, and just hanging with them. Got to see my family a little bit when we were there. You spend a week at home and try to hide for a little bit, I guess, is kind of how it goes.
But just being home, relaxing, taking it easy. And then we went to the Bahamas for a couple of days, and then came back. It didn't include much golf. Just trying to -- I don't think people realize how mentally tired a major championship is. It's very tough. Physically it's fine, but mentally you're just absolutely drained come Sunday night, Monday. And just trying to recoup mentally.
I don't need to play golf every day. I'd rather show up mentally fresh than to be playing great and mentally tired.
Q. Is it getting harder to hide?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It definitely is.
Q. About a year or so ago you were talking about the differences between how the public perceives your game and what you look at. And you said you look to yourself as a guy who delivers in the big moments, delivers in the clutch. What do you consider your first clutch in golf, past age five, if you can do that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think there was multiple ones. I think Shinnecock was kind of the first clutch moment, making all those putts for par on the backside. I think that was -- I probably should have -- the bogey putt I made on 11, par-putt on 12, 14, 15. I think those were just clutch putts. Turning kind of a negative into a positive. And that's what helped me win the championship right there.
And I think sometimes clutch doesn't always happen at the last hole, it can kind of happen in the middle of the round. And I think that was kind of the first aha moment for me of, okay, I can -- I can make putts when I really need to.
Q. Congratulations on your most recent PGA Championship win. You just used a powerful word like "stunned" and "shocked," which convey emotion. And we saw that side of you recently, that display of emotion down the stretch. How do you feel perceptions of you have changed now as a result, do you feel?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know. I view myself completely differently than people view me. I still think it's weird when I walk into a place and I can see eyes are on me just for dinner. And I'm like, What's everybody staring at?
I just view myself as a regular guy, just like everybody else. And I just happen to be really good at golf, and that's it. I don't view myself any different than anybody else does. I'm just a regular guy. That's how I'd like to be treated. I don't want to be put up on a -- I don't want to say a pedestal or anything like that, but I just want to be just like everybody else, just a normal person.
Q. But you're far from a normal person. You're a four-time major winner. What's the one thing you learned about yourself down the stretch, the emotions are really running high, when you're really up against it, the one key takeaway from it all?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Just being able to reset. Being able to block things out and turn a negative into a positive. I watched a six-shot lead disappear very quickly. And walking to that 15th tee you could be very upset. I could have pouted about it. I could have done a million different things. But instead just turned that into -- I've still got a 1-shot lead. DJ has to make something happen if he wants to catch me. I was actually really proud of myself the way I spun that mentally and really turned that into something as a "I've got to go out and go do something." And hit great shots coming down the stretch, especially when I needed to, finding fairways on 15, 16, being straight into it that wind. That ball starts to move at all, it's gone, it's gone right or it's gone left, and you can very easily rack up a number there.
Q. You mentioned how mentally draining and tired a major is. Is this kind of a blueprint? You took the next two weeks off after the PGA, kind of make a blueprint you could follow in the future, or will that depend tournament by tournament?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I usually take the week off after a major, except next week I'll be playing Travelers. It's a golf course I like. It's just something I've usually done. I usually play Travelers, too. If I win this week I'm still going to Travelers. I did that last year. It's one of those things where I enjoy taking some time off to kind of I guess soak it in a little bit, but I wouldn't say it's a must for me.
Q. Seems like Pebble is a very different kind of course than the last two U.S. Opens. Do you feel like it fits your game well? Does it bring more players into the mix given that it would seem that length isn't a prerequisite or power? And as an unrelated question, I'm curious if you remember much about Tiger's win in 2000. I know you were young at the time.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, we watched it on TV. We had a rerun, I want to say, maybe Friday or Saturday when we were in Canada, we watched a little bit of it. Obviously it's super impressive, what he was able to do. It's probably the greatest golf performance I think we're definitely going to see maybe in golf. It was fun to watch on TV even, what, 19 years later, which is just incredible to say.
But this golf course, I don't know if it -- it's a major championship. I don't know if it brings more guys in. I don't know. I've said it the last time, there's so much pressure. There's so many guys that shoot themselves out of it just because it's a major. They change their game plan from a normal week to this week, added pressure of I've got to play well this week.
You never know what's going to happen. Yes, it is a shorter golf course, but you've still got to find the fairway. You've still got to hit it close, and you still have to make putts. It doesn't make it any different than any other golf course. Obviously the views make it a little different. But you've still got to go out there and execute.
Q. Obligatory Willie Anderson question. How much do you know about him, and, if you do, who told you? Have you talked to anybody about going for three in a row, Curtis or anybody like that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, I haven't talked to anybody about going three in a row. I'm not thinking about it. I know the odds are stacked up probably even more against me now to go three in a row than to back it up. It's hard to win the same event three times in a row. I don't know how many times it's even been done on the PGA Tour, let alone a major championship.
About Willie Anderson, it's funny, we were in Scotland, I think it was last year, and we saw his name on a building I guess where he used to live or something like that, which is pretty cool. But I don't know too much about him. Obviously that was a long, long time ago. What was it, a hundred years? Hundred-and-some years?
Q. Have you Googled him?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I haven't Googled him.
Q. Have you Googled anything?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, not recently. I did, actually. I had to change a phone number, and I Googled that. I had to change my phone number yesterday.
Q. Do you -- have you or will you ever watch that last round from Bethpage? Have you had the chance to do it yet, and will you ever?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think, yeah, I will, eventually. I've never watched any of the rounds I've ever played. I think maybe when I retire, when I'm done. I think it goes back to -- I've said it before in a couple of press conferences, is when I'm done playing, I'll look back and kind of reflect.
But as I'm playing right now, I don't want to look back and really reflect on what I've done. I'm still I guess in the prime of my career right now. So there's no point in reflecting. I'll reflect when I'm done.
Q. You and I had a one-on-one after you won in Phoenix a few years ago. And I didn't see it, but over the years a number of people have written, talked, said, Brooks Koepka plays with a chip on his shoulder. Do you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, why wouldn't you? You've always got to find something to give you a little bit of extra motivation. Sometimes it's blatantly obvious.
Q. Where did the chip come from?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think a little -- a very little bit of it was me putting it on there. But I think a lot of it just comes from certain things. You go back -- there's a commercial ran now where I'm not even in it, and FOX put it up for a preview of the U.S. Open. So I don't know. You guys tell me. I wasn't on Notables after winning. There's a couple of things where it's just mind boggling how -- it's like, really? Like, how do you forget that?
But at the same time there's certain things, certain slights that come from, I guess, I don't want to say you guys, but just things like that, like how -- I mean, I would -- it doesn't make sense to me. But then there's other things where I just find -- I just tell myself I can't do it. I can't do it. And I just want to prove myself wrong.
Q. Sounds like you're pretty motivated for this Sunday afternoon.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, why wouldn't you be? It's a major championship. I'm ready to go. There's a lot on the line. Going for three in a row. That's very exciting. And I want to play well. This would be the coolest thing, to win three in a row and to win a third one at Pebble, I think that's really -- it's such a special place. And to be as a little kid you always wanted to play a U.S. Open at Pebble. It's kind of a dream come true, in a sense. And to even be thought of or to think of winning a major championship here would be incredible.
Q. You've stressed the importance of finding and sticking to your routine at majors over the past couple of years. I'm curious how and why you stumbled upon this particular formula and why you think it works best for you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It's just something that's worked. It's not anything out of the ordinary I do. I just keep it very, very strict on major weeks. It's something I've done ever since I've gotten to major championships. I've got the same crew and the same house. Got the chef there. Got my agent, Claude, Jena, me, and that's it. It's the same people.
We just kind of go into our own little bubble, I guess, is a good way to put it. And don't really -- don't worry about much what's going on on the golf course. We kind of get away from golf when we're at home. And I think it makes it a little -- not as stressful during the weeks as a place to kind of get away. I'm not discussing my rounds when I'm back. I'll talk about what goes on on the golf course out here, but I keep the golf at the golf course; and when I go home, it's something to kind of put my feet up and relax. And I think that's helped me through the years to really -- because like I said, these are super stressful weeks. And to find some place of relaxation is important.
Q. What prompted the Google search on how to change your phone?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know if somebody leaked my phone number or what happened, but I got a couple of texts -- a bunch of text messages yesterday from some different numbers and a bunch of phone calls. So it was probably about time. I've had it for about three years, four years. So in major weeks and just about every week now, everybody is texting, asking for different things. It was probably long overdue.
Q. You're saying you see yourself just as a regular guy. Do you think with your golf, the way you've played in the majors over the last few years, that you now have an aura and a presence that could intimidate the rest of the field if you're up there in the closing stages?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know. I think that's something you'd probably have to ask the other guys. I don't see it. It doesn't matter to me if they're intimidated or not. I feel like I've proven myself.
I think if I was one of those guys and I saw my name on the leaderboard in a major championship, I'd think, "Really? Not again," maybe. But you'd have to ask those guys, I don't know. I don't feel like I'm intimidating. I feel like I'm a nice guy and will talk to just about anybody on the range or when we're playing. You've got to ask them.
Q. Usually the conversation's around you holding off everyone on Sunday at Bethpage, but what did Dustin show you about being kind of the guy that actually came after you that day?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think we all know how tough he is. I think we know he's going to win a couple more majors. It's inevitable. I mean, this week, he seems to play well at Pebble just about every time he tees it up. This golf course suits him. He obviously feels very comfortable. And he always plays well on poa. So I would expect him to be up there come Sunday.
And he's a competitor. We see it in everything. Even if we're hanging out, if we're playing cards or whatever we're doing, he wants to win. He's not going to back down, especially, I'm sure, just because it's me. I'm sure he wants to kick my butt just as much as I want to kick his.
Q. Can you talk more about watching that U.S. Open preview for the first time and waiting and waiting for your spot to come up, and what do you think you would need to do to get the recognition you deserve?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I actually didn't see it for a long time. A bunch of people on Twitter I think tagged me in it, in the promo. 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 or should (laughter).
Q. You told the story one or two years ago of going to the gym and everybody making over Dustin and you were just sort of standing there, nobody was really paying much attention to you. I'm wondering if it's reversed in the last year or so, if you find that Dustin's now getting a sense of what that's like to be the other guy?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No. I mean, Dustin is Dustin. I think he's pretty recognizable. He's six-three. He's going to stand out when he walks into any gym. It actually happened last week. I was working out next to some guy in Canada, and he was talking about -- because we don't work out together anymore, but there was some guy that was talking about how Dustin was just in there and how cool it was.
And I was with my trainer, Barrett, and we were just kind of laughing. I just couldn't tell what he was doing, but it was funny talking about he was working out next to Dustin and how cool it was. It was just funny. I just laughed.
Q. He didn't know who you were?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't think so. I mean, I don't know. I don't know if he was just trying to get my attention or what. But he talked about Dustin for about ten minutes to anybody within earshot.
Q. You said you sort of shut things down at a major championship. Week in and week out, do you watch much of news, golf reports?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, at night when we're done we'll flip on the Golf Channel for a little bit and see what they're talking about at the end of the day, what Frank and David and Rich are talking about. So we'll see. Yeah. We just see what they're up to. We'll watch it for a little bit. And most of the time -- I mean, this week, probably not, with the NBA Finals and the hockey and everything going on. I'd rather watch that than turn on the Golf Channel.
Q. Since I've known you for well over 20 years, I'm going to ask you a golf question. What hole will you hit driver on this week and how many?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Probably about four or five drivers. 2, hit driver on. That's really the only one on the front nine that I need to hit driver on. I could hit it on 9 if I choose to. On the backside -- I don't even need to hit it on 18 just because of the way the hole is shaped. I could hit driver and start out -- it kind of depends on wind direction. I'm not a big fan of hitting driver when the wind is off the left. I like to hit 3-wood.
Q. Have they told you guys yet whether you'll be playing the forward tee on 10? If so, is that probably an iron for you off that tee?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I have no idea. To be honest, I haven't looked at the sheet or whatever the -- the competitor sheet of the tees or whatever it's at. I haven't even played the back nine. I'm going to go play it now. If they have a tee box up there, probably hit iron if it's off the front. But I have no idea. Wherever they set it up, I'll just go play.
Q. Just to follow up on that, if you're hitting fewer drivers, do you see that as less of an advantage for you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Not really, no. I'm hitting a shorter club so it's easier for me, and I'll be the same distance -- guys might be hitting driver. I could hit 3-iron or 3-wood and it's easier for me to put those clubs in the fairway. I've got a shorter club, it's easier to hit it on line. I should technically be more in the fairway than the guy who is hitting driver.
That's the way I'm spinning it, is I've got more of an advantage with a shorter club. I'm going to be the same distance they are, and I'll have less club in than they will, but I'm hitting a lesser club off the tee. That's how I'm spinning it.
Q. You never seem to complain about much on the golf course. I'm just curious, as much attention as the USGA has gotten over some of the mishaps over the last three or four years, do you think there's an onus on the players in general to pretty much just shut up and go play?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, I guess the only reason they're complaining -- I mean, everybody has got to play the same golf course. So it really doesn't make a difference. It doesn't make a difference if you put it in the fairway and you hit every green, there's really no problem, is there?
So obviously they're not doing what they're supposed to do. So they're not playing good enough. If they 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.
I've just been never one to complain, make excuses. It doesn't matter. Nobody wants to hear anybody's excuse. I find it annoying even when I play with guys and they're dropping clubs or throwing them or complaining, like telling me how bad the golf course is or how bad this is. I don't want to hear it. I don't care. It doesn't matter to me. It's just something we've all got to deal with. If you play good enough, you shouldn't have a problem.
Q. What's the worst setup you've ever played?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know. It didn't matter. I don't know if I've ever played one where it's been a bad setup. I just view it as this is what it is this week, and I've got to deal with it and go. In my mind it doesn't equate to a bad setup or good setup. I go the other way and say I've never played one with a great setup because it just doesn't correlate with me in the way my mind works. It's just this is what I'm given this week, and this is what I have to do, and that's how I go about it.
Q. At Bethpage you whittled the number of people you thought could win the tournament down to a small number, 30 to 35. Here at a links-style layout, shorter course, how many people do you think -- USGA-style setup, how many people do you think are really out there to take this trophy from you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I whittled it down to way less than 35. I'd say the same thing again. I don't know how many players are in the field, what is it, 150? If I do what I'm supposed to do, I know I'm going to beat over half the field. And from there guys are going to change their game and the way they go about it. So you're down to about 30 guys. And from there, pressure, and who's going to play good. So you're down to about a handful of guys. That's just how I view it, how I view going into every tournament, every major. There's always a certain amount of guys, if they play well, there's a good chance they're going to win. Simple as that. You just hope it's you at the end of the week.
Q. Justin Thomas was in here yesterday. He used the phrase, channelling my inner BK. What do you think that means? Have you seen more of your peers coming to you for feedback?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I have no idea what channelling my inner BK means.
I have no idea. Yeah, I've got no idea what that means. But, yeah, I've seen -- I've started to play a few more practice rounds with Aaron Wise. I'm going to go play with him today. I think he's super talented and he can learn a lot. And it's kind of a different role. I remember being in I guess his shoes or wanting to go play with great players and kind of pick what I can and find what I like and go from there.
And you've got to give back because the older guys gave back to us. It's the right thing to do. I enjoy it because I get to pick his brain, too. It's fun for me hearing about how these younger guys, they come out and they can just attack everything. They see driver everywhere. It's a fun style of golf. Watching Aaron hit the ball, it's super impressive. He's going to be super talented when he figures it out and understands his game. I think he's going to be a hell of a player.
MIKE TROSTEL: Brooks, thanks very much. Best of luck this week.
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