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PGA CHAMPIONSHIP MEDIA DAY
February 5, 2019
Farmingdale, New York
JULIUS MASON: We're here with Brooks Koepka as we count down the weeks, the months to our PGA Championship at Bethpage. So this is a very casual setting. We'd like you to get as much quality time as you can with our defending champion, so questions are open to you on the floor, so go ahead and take it away.
Q. How excited are you to get back to playing another major?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I'm super excited. New York fans are a lot of fun, and any time you can play in front of them and you're doing well, I think that's an added bonus. I know the golf course, and I'm excited to play it. It's going to be nice, especially since it's moved to May. I think you're going to see a different golf course than -- I've only seen it once, and that was, I think, in August for the Playoffs.
It'll be interesting to see how the golf course plays, the setup, and obviously you know it's going to be a tough. Bethpage is an incredibly difficult golf course, it's hard to even think that it's a public golf course sometimes. But I'm looking forward to it. It'll be fun. If I can get on a nice run, you can rattle off all the majors, which would be nice.
Q. What were your impressions of it when you were there for the Barclays? What stays in your mind from three years ago?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It's a tight golf course. The fairways are relatively tight, and they've got some turn to them. So you've really got to pick and choose what you're going to hit off the tee. You don't always need driver. You've just got to be -- it's all about placement. And then coming into these greens, the greens aren't as undulating. There's just a constant slope on them. You feel like everything is at like a 1Â½-degree slope, and not to go full science on you, but it always feels like there's a lot of movement in the greens, so you're trying to figure out the best way to get that uphill putt and not be in a bad spot.
The greens aren't necessarily that big, and then the rough is -- the rough is going to be pretty deep I would assume, just off -- the one time I've played it, you know if you hit it in the rough, you know you're going to be struggling to make par.
Q. As the defending champion, is your mindset different at all? Obviously last year at the U.S. Open, you had an ideal week as the defending champ. Do you have like an extra swagger, an extra obligation do you feel like to perform well as the defending champ?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it's a little different when you step foot on the grounds and you're defending. You have to feel like you've got that -- no matter how you're playing, that extra -- all right, I'm here, I'm back again, all those memories from the year before kind of come back in, and I think it's important when you go to show up and really give a good defense of your title. The last thing I want -- I was so mad at Shinnecock and the opening rounds. I felt like I didn't play bad, but I was just disappointed with the score because the wind kind of died down there and I feel like I kind of shot myself out of it. You always try to come back and make sure you're in a good spot to defend your title, and that's what I'm hoping to do.
Q. How is the whole vibe of the year going to change with the PGA in May instead of August?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it's definitely a lot different, but I think it's a good change. I like the fact that it's in May. I like the fact that everything is so congested -- or feels that way, from THE PLAYERS in March to basically when the Open is done is, what -- is it June, July? I can't remember.
BROOKS KOEPKA: July, end of July, or middle of July. We're done. You've got four majors and THE PLAYERS, and you've seen it. You've seen guys get hot, and they go for four months where they just play some incredible golf, and hopefully I can set myself up to do that.
Q. Did Giannis make you feel tiny last night?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I've never felt smaller, yeah. I've never -- it's incredible, I don't consider myself a big dude, but I mean, I've never felt shorter. I think I was -- I didn't even reach his shoulders. I was about up to his mid-chest. It was kind of -- I felt kind of embarrassed. It was like, man, I don't feel big, I don't feel strong, I don't feel any -- I don't feel like that normally, but he really knew how to put me in a body bag (laughing).
Q. What did President Clinton say to you? He's a big golf guy.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, we were joking, I think he said it was going to take him two drives to wherever I hit it, but yeah, we talked about maybe playing golf in the near future, and that would be exciting. I think anytime you can play with the current President or former President, I think that's truly an honor, and the fact that he wants to play golf with me is pretty cool.
Q. You've obviously had a lot of success in majors. What do you do to kind of peak for these weeks?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I treat the weeks a little bit different. I try to bring that over into the regular TOUR events. I basically go into -- not lockdown but pretty close to it. There's about five or six people that are allowed in the house. Same crew every time, from my chef to my coach, my agent, and that's it, no one else is really allowed in the house. I might have one friend over, but that's it. It's very strenuous. I'm up in the morning, going to the gym and playing in the afternoon, and then back and doing recovery. It's not like I'm doing anything in my spare time. It's very focused, very regimented, and I don't stray from it.
Q. In the lead-up do you do things with your schedule or even the week before --
BROOKS KOEPKA: I like to play the week before. I think it's -- even if you play bad, it's just kind of a build in, you find some rhythm, find some things you're doing well and kind of build on that. I think when I get to the event, I feel like I've got a good base to go off of from the week before, no matter how I play, good, bad, and if you play good the week before, then it just feels like an added bonus when you get there. You really know what you're going to get. That's how I felt last year before the PGA. I struggled unbelievably -- unbelievably well and then just putted like a dog, and so when we got there, that was really the only thing I focused on was making sure I was starting the putts on line and my speed was correct.
I told my coach even when we got there, I said, don't even say anything, I'm hitting it good, just stand back there and nod your head and that's it, and he did, and it was part of the reason why we won.
Q. Speaking of the house, what was the story that -- you made good friends with your neighbors with the house you had in South Hampton last year. What was the story, they put up all these "go Brooks" posters and --
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, yeah. We were staying on this street, I forget the name of the street, but I think every day we came in, the kids that were like four or five houses down, they made a sign that said, "go Brooks" or something to that extent. When we were pulling back, it was nighttime after we won on Sunday, and they already made a new sign that was like "congratulations" and all this stuff. We pulled up, and the road was pitch black, there was no lighting on it, and our headlights just hit it in the right light and we just saw it. I was like, might as well, so I stopped, signed it, signed both -- I don't know how many -- if there was two or one kid that did it, but just signed it for them, so they could have something cool.
Q. Last night we saw some of the inherent perks of your new found stardom, meeting Giannis and meeting President Clinton. What are some of the challenges, though, of this heightened stature you've had in the game the last 16, 18 months?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't think there's been anything negative about it. It's been all good. You can use it in a positive light and probably help change people's lives if you can, and any time you go somewhere, obviously you're a little bit more recognized, which is nice, and you get to meet people, meet fans, engage with them, and that's part of the fun.
Q. Last year it was a special win at Bellerive, your third major, second one of the year. Obviously it's a real week with Tiger making his run. What do you remember most about that week?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Everything. You know, from the moment we arrived to how well I was playing to getting there, the first round, playing solid, really didn't feel like I got anything out of it, and then Friday I remember I felt so bad, it was so hot out. I remember laying in bed thinking, I might have to go -- I didn't tell anybody this, but I was thinking maybe I needed an IV, go to the hospital on Friday. I felt so dehydrated, so bad. I must have drank when we got home maybe 20 bottles of water, and it just wasn't enough. I couldn't even sleep Friday night.
And then Saturday we get out there, and I played some of the best golf I felt like I have all year. Just set myself up in a good chance there for Sunday.
Then you look at Sunday, that's what I dreamed of when I was a kid, going down with Scottie and Tiger, my two guys I looked up to ever since I've been -- started the game. Those are the guys that I wanted to play with. I'd say to myself, this putt was to beat Adam and Tiger, and to actually do it in real life, I don't even think I thought it was going to come true.
Q. Is that the hottest tournament you've ever had to play in?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know if it's been the hottest. It was pretty close. I felt pretty bad. I remember cramping holding the trophy when we were all taking pictures at the end. It was like, oh, man, what does my face look like right now. I'm supposed to be smiling while I'm cramping. It was hot. I don't know how many pounds I lost that week, but I probably could have lost a few more.
Q. How would you describe the atmosphere out there on Sunday? We were there, and it was just so loud. What was it like for you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Just as loud if not louder. Any time you're seen like that in a great sporting town with Tiger Woods on his almost march to history to come back and win, I've never seen anything like that on the golf course. It was probably the coolest experience I've had as a golfer with fans, to see how many people came out and supported them, how loud they were. I mean, it was incredible walking over that bridge on 18, and I know probably half of them had left because Tiger was done, so I can only imagine what it looked like when he was walking over that bridge, but it was quite impressive, the turnout and how supportive they were. I mean, it's a great sports town, so you know what you're going to get when you go there.
Q. Do your peers change how they treat you after major two and three? Did the TOUR players treat you differently?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I hope not. I'm still the same me. I'm not any different. I've just got a couple more major titles behind my name. But I'm still the same me. I'm not --
Q. Does it feel like you have more chips at the table?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Maybe, I guess. I think maybe if anything, it's just been more respect, I guess. I feel like it's been there for a while. I just didn't have the wins to back it up. But now any time you can add three majors, I think that's -- yeah, enough said, kind of thing.
Q. You were saying before when you were doing the fish bowl thing that you can get anything you want and buy anything you want. How important is that respect part of this?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I think the respect thing is -- I don't want to say blown out of proportion, that I feel like I haven't gotten the respect I deserve. The only thing -- the point I was trying to make was just I think if other people had done it, I think it would be a lot different. I know it's different when Jordan did it because there was no Tiger Woods, and then now that Tiger is back, obviously that's going to bring a different atmosphere, a different sense.
But you know, at times it's frustrating, but I also understand it, and I've just tried to get on with it because at the end of the day, when I'm sitting there with three major championship trophies, that's enough.
Q. You saw what happened over the weekend with Rickie. What's the weirdest thing you've seen or have happen to you on a golf course with rules or a ball just rolling down a hill back into the water?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, that was probably up there. I didn't even get to see it live. I just saw it when we landed on Monday. But that was pretty interesting. I've never seen anything like that. Props to him for hanging in there and not letting it affect him. I don't know, some of the weirdest things I've seen, that's definitely up there, that's for sure.
Q. This time last year you were side lined with a wrist injury that forced you to miss the Masters. Now that you've had an entire year back and obviously with two majors in hand, is there a little bit more obviously appreciation for what you've been through or appreciation to be out there on TOUR?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I'm just happy to be playing golf again. I've said I've fallen back in love with it, and that's the only way I can really put words to it. You fall back in -- when something is taken away from you that you love so much, and at the time maybe didn't really know how much I loved it, but when everything is pulled away from you and I'm sitting on the couch and -- not depressed, but not happy, not in a good place, you never -- I never knew when I was going to be able to come back. I didn't know if I was going to have to change everything, was I still going to be the same player, was I going to be just happy to be making my TOUR card every year. I didn't know what expectations were going to be. I didn't know whether I was going to be the same me, and that's scary.
But to come back and the first couple times be like, okay, wow, I can still do this, I'm still the same me, there's nobody more excited to be playing golf than me. I think it was tough at the time, but I think it was something that needed to happen if I wanted to have the career that I'm on track to have. I think I needed to have that four months was probably the best thing to happen to me.
Q. Your Buddy DJ hit I think an 8-iron into the 18th green in Saudi Arabia on like a 600-yard hole, kind of reigniting the debate about if people are hitting the ball too far and if the USGA and R&A should do something about it. As one of the longer guys, I'm curious your thoughts on that whole debate?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, it was 600 yards from the back of the tee. It was moved up about 40 and downwind. I can see why he hit it, but yeah, it looks like it's 600 yards. It doesn't play 600, that's for sure. If they roll the golf ball back, it's just going to make the longer hitters even longer. There's going to be more of a separation from the long hitters to short hitters. Guys that hit it 270 are going to hit it 240. Guys that hit it long are still going to hit it 300. It really doesn't matter. It's really going to affect guys that don't hit it long, and there won't be any guys -- if they change the ball, you won't see any short hitters on TOUR anymore. They'll all be gone.
Q. You told Danny that you work out six days out of seven. What does the Brooks Koepka cheat day look like? What do you eat? What do you do?
BROOKS KOEPKA: A cheat day? If I could have it my way, I mean, I'd probably start with doughnuts in the morning. I'd probably go with that, finish it off with pizza and definitely like a nice cheeseburger and fries.
Q. Do you have these days or is it just imaginary?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I haven't had these days in a while -- actually I did. I actually had McDonald's the other day in Saudi Arabia. I'm not going to lie. I just needed something quick and we had to go. Ãœber Eats, it was like, perfect, let's do that. But yeah, they don't happen very often. When I'm home, they definitely don't happen. It's harder on the road to keep your diet and keep doing all those things, but they're nice when you're able to make them happen.
Q. How do you maintain that discipline? Everybody would like to do it. How do you do it?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It's part of the job. I mean, that's probably the simple answer, but it's something, hey, I want to -- my goal is to make sure I'm the best me when it comes down to Sunday at a golf tournament. I think if I put the right food in my body, I've worked out, nobody feels stronger, nobody feels like they're in better shape than me, and I think you've got that extra confidence. It doesn't matter if I'm on a four-week stretch, I know I can outlast anybody on a four-week stretch physically because they're not going to be doing the things that I'm doing on from Monday when we get there, Tuesday whenever I get there, the first week until Sunday. Nobody has actually worked harder than me. So I know if I'm putting the right things in my body, then I know that just gives me a little bit of advantage over everybody else.
Q. How long have you had this commitment to fitness and nutrition?
BROOKS KOEPKA: The last two years. I'd say it's really been a lot different from having a chef when we travel, having a chef at home deliver food. It's been a big transformation, but I think you can see it.
Q. What inspired it?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I got tired of being average. I think I watched -- I was hanging around Dustin a lot, and I watched the way he went about things, and any time you're around a great player -- I think he was No. 1 in the world at the time, and I found things that I liked, and I found things that I thought I could improve on about it, so if he's the best player in the world, why am I not trying to one-up him and do what he's doing. You know, going from only having water for tournament weeks, not drinking soda, not drinking anything else, to eating right, making sure you try to be better about eating on the golf course, making sure you've got energy while you're out there, and working out six days a week because three years ago I wasn't even working out on the road. I was just going to the gym when I was home or maybe a couple days during the tournament week but nothing really to get excited about. And watching him, okay, well, if he's doing that, then I need to outwork him if I want to do it.
Q. Do you have a big end goal, like some players want to win 10 times, they want to win five majors, they want to win 18 majors --
BROOKS KOEPKA: Why put a limit on it? The only problem I have with that is if I put a limit on it, let's say it's 10 majors, so what happens when I get to 10?
Q. Put new ones?
BROOKS KOEPKA: But then it's not really an angle, is it? You never really have an angle, it's always kind of different steps along the way. It's kind of different goals. You want to hit that, check that off, and then you've got new ones. That's kind of why I write them every year, write the goals and find different ways to -- some of them are actually on the golf course, some of them are off the golf course, stats-wise, things like that, so if you can kind of hit all of them, eventually when I'm done, when I'm retired, sitting back on a beach somewhere, I can go, you know what, I gave it my all.
Q. You do them every year?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Mm-hmm.
Q. What are this year's?
BROOKS KOEPKA: A lot of the same things. I missed a lot last year. I missed a lot of them. Staying healthy, obviously that's number one. I mean, they're so simple as being in bed at 10:00 every night on tournament week. As simple as that, to making sure I'm working out, all the basic stuff, not missing a cut, trying to finish top 10 half the time. Little things like that, and the rest of them are just all personal stuff.
Q. Regarding Bethpage, how much fun or how different is it playing on a public course?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It's fun. It's definitely a lot different. I feel bad for the guys that have to play that day in, day out. That's a tough golf course. It's fun to play. It really is. I think the best part about it is the average golfer if they go out there and play, they can relate to us when we go out there or we can relate to them. You'll see it, you'll probably see guys lose their head, the frustration for how difficult it is. But they can have a sense of, man, I played that hole and I hit it there, too, and I know exactly the feeling he's going through, and hey, I at least made the up-and-down when he couldn't. I think it's fun when you get on a public golf course and a lot more people are able to play it and they really know what we're going through.
Q. The other end of the spectrum, Shinnecock is always near the top of the list as the greatest courses in America or in the world. What's your lasting impression of that place when you think of Shinnecock? What pops into your mind?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Obviously I really like the place. I think it would be dumb to say I didn't. No, it's definitely one of the hardest golf courses I've ever played. It'll test your patience. It'll test your mind. It's something I enjoy, but then that's also a typical U.S. Open, anything that can really push you to the limit or the breaking point, that's what I enjoy. I enjoy the struggle, and I feel like especially if there's going to be a tough test of golf, I feel like that's right up my alley.
Q. The Houston course that you're going to be consulting on, another public course. What kind of philosophy do you bring to the table? What is a good golf course to you? What kind of role are you playing there?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Something that's got a variety, different holes, different shots. It's not just set up where you see a lot of golf courses, wow, it's a lot of left-to-right holes or wow, there's a lot of right-to-left. You always see the bunkers -- they're always made for somebody, and I didn't want this to be made for anybody. Tom has done an unbelievable job of his design and his vision and what he saw for the golf course, and then the only thing -- I mean, he's doing all the work. I give him all the credit. But it's fun to kind of partner up with him and just see how golf course design is done. I mean, I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 25 years when I retire --
Q. Is there anything that you really learned in that whole process?
BROOKS KOEPKA: The things that they think of that you just would never think of on a golf course, just because of draining, why don't we position this here. I look at a golf course a little differently, have a little more respect for the designers and what they envision and how they go about it. But as far as me doing it, I'm just giving them a little like, hey, I think this would be cool for us and for the average golfer because sometimes when you bring one person in and they're only focused on one part of it, wow, the design of this would be really cool, but is it really playable. So I can bounce a little bit of that off, which is neat.
Q. Who's going to sign first, Harper or Machado?
BROOKS KOEPKA: If I had to guess, I'd say Harper. I think Harper will sign first.
Q. Where do you want those guys to go?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, Machado was up here -- I mean, what was it, it was about a month ago, wasn't it, just over a month ago? I think he was in Philly, a bunch of those places. And then Harper, I'd love to see Harper come east. That's all I'm going to say.
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