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April 9, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to welcome Brooks Koepka to the media center.
At this point last year, Brooks, there was so much anticipation to see you play in the Masters and then you were forced to withdraw with a lingering wrist injury. A year later and you're fully recovered. How are you feeling coming into the tournament this year?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I feel good. Obviously I haven't played as well as I would have liked in the beginning part of the year, but over the last couple weeks, I've seen some solid results, and I like where my game is trending. It's nice to be back here. It's always a special place to be playing, and last year, disappointing, not being able to be here, but you know, looking forward to a good week.
THE MODERATOR: Stellar 2018. Victories in the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and then being named the Tour's Player of the Year. Congratulations. What an awesome year.
You were also the first person to successfully defend the U.S. Open since Curtis Strange in 1989. Now you're a three‑time champion. How have you adapted your approach and preparation to deal with the high‑pressure moments in major championships?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I just keep it very simple. Pressure is something you create on your own when you start thinking about the results. If you're not thinking about the results, there's really no pressure. It's like when you're practicing.
The second you start thinking about, what will happen if I make this or what might come of it, then that's when you start feeling pressure and there's no pressure if you're not thinking about the results.
I never really think about anything. I kind of like blackout sometimes when we're playing, I'm not really thinking anything. A hole can go by and I don't know really know, nothing has really registered, which is kind of nice. Try to keep the same routine every week and the same group of people in the same house, and it definitely simplifies things for major weeks because they are probably some of the most stressful weeks you're going to play.
Q. You talked about watching this event last year, kind of reignited some of your passion for golf. I was wondering, watching it and seeing the tournament and course from a new perspective, did you learn anything different about playing the course?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It wasn't so much about playing the golf course. I feel like once you play it a handful of times, you really know a lot of the knowledge and the little nuances of this place.
Especially when you start talking to players that have played it for 15 years, you know, they are more than helpful with their info, and that's a big part of it. You jot everything down that you can, everything the experienced players are saying, and then you find things on your own. Little things to do.
But I mean, a lot of the times, you're just trying to find the uphill putt out here, and if you hit a lot of greens and leave yourself some uphill putts, you're going to have some good chances.
Q. How has this weather affected your prep work this week, and coming into it, how often had you been here and played?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I got in Saturday. I just hit balls Saturday and Sunday and just played the back nine yesterday.
I mean, it doesn't really matter whether it's raining, we can't get out. I mean, it happened at the PGA, so, who knows (smiling).
Q. Some of traditions here, no cell phones, nobody inside the ropes, are there any that you particularly like and give this place a different feel than every other tournament?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I actually like how the Patrons can get so close to you. I think that's a special experience for them.
I remember when I came when I was a little kid, I was in amazement at how the experience, when you come here, it's unbelievable. As a kid, I'll never forget it. I thought it was the coolest thing to see these guys up close, personal, and sometimes they hit it and you feel like you can grab their club when they are taking their backswing. That's something I'll never forget.
As a player, it makes it much more enjoyable. You feel like they really get an up close, personal experience, and it's a fun place.
I mean, no cell phones, I always like no cell phones. You don't have to deal with text messages, nothing. It's nice to put it away for a bit.
Q. Where exactly were you at in the recovery process this week? What could you do last year at this point and what couldn't you do?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I was still in a soft cast at this point. It was more of a protective thing. They didn't know where‑‑ I was still in pain. I still couldn't push down on a shampoo bottle to get anything out; I was still in pain.
I saw a doctor, I think it would have been next week last year, and he popped it back in, and it's been good since. It was one of those crazy things, not sure how long‑‑ longer than I expected, but once I was able to finally feel like, okay, I can actually hold onto something and grip something a little tight, you know, with some pressure, that I was able to go.
But I mean, this week was‑‑ I mean, I wasn't doing anything last year.
Q. I'm sure you didn't have a lack of motivation, but not being able to play this after so much anticipation, did it provide a little extra spark?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I think so. Any time you're on the couch and you're watching guys that you know you should be competing with, it's never fun. It's something‑‑ it was a blessing in disguise. I've said it a million times. I think that was something I needed, to really kind of find my love for the game again, something that was important to me, to sit down and watch, I think, and really realize how much I do miss this game, assess kind of where I was at, and then to come back and to have the year I had was impressive because I don't think anybody saw that one coming.
Q. Did you say that you attended this growing up as a child?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I came here, '98, '99 maybe, one of those years.
Q. What was the highlight for you? Did you get autographs? Did you follow one person in particular?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I remember‑‑ I think I've told this story, about how I tried to get Phil's autograph. I was standing by the old range, and somehow found my way kind of right by the parking lot or something like that and asked him for an autograph and he said no, and he turned me down (laughter) probably about the only kid Phil's ever turned down.
And he told me years later, I shouldn't have been in the parking lot (laughter) so fair enough.
Q. You talk a lot and your trainer puts photos sometimes of your fitness workouts. What's your training like this week at a major? Will it be the same as a normal week?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Usually it's the same as a normal week. We did a bunch of tests. I wasn't feeling very well at THE PLAYERS. We did a bunch of tests. I haven't been in the weight room or done any activity since THE PLAYERS. This will be more of a relaxing week, recovery week for me. Taking three weeks off has been nice. Finally feel like I've got some energy back, and just, you know‑‑ normally it would be a normal week, but I need to take care of myself if I want to actually play this game for a long time.
Q. You being a Nike guy, I wonder, what are your thoughts on Tiger rocking the mock turtleneck look this week, and did you ever do it back in your younger days in the mid‑2000s?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I did. Probably the first time he ever wore it was I think here, I can't remember. But I remember I definitely went on to Nike's Web site and bought a few of them, probably bought the red one. Yeah, I probably had four or five of them when I was a kid. Everything always comes back into style, right.
Q. Just wondering how the first tee here at Augusta National ranks as far as just the intimidation factor, how overwhelming it feels, how much nervousness you feel here compared to the first tee somewhere else?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think until I played The Ryder Cup, it was the most nervous tee shot I ever hit.
The first time you ever play it, it's going to be very intimidating. Your whole range session, you've been waiting to hit this shot and just get it underway and get the round going and feel like you've got something. It's a unique experience. It's always fun.
I mean, the last time we played a major was what, seven, eight months ago, so there's a lot of anticipation for seven, eight months, just to play another one. It's fun. I love it. I love getting on that first tee and letting it fly. It's more excitement now. It's not as much nerves as it was the first time, but that comes with every time you play this golf course. Even if you come up and play it on a random day, you're just excited to tee off.
Q. How about the hole itself? Is it tough from a strategic standpoint?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, for me it is, because I fade it. If I push one and don't hit it very well, it's going to go in that bunker, it's not the best place to be. Or you kind of pull one and you're in the left trees. I mean, it's a great opening hole because you hit a great tee shot, you get a good look at birdie and if not, you're kind of wondering what you're going to make.
I just think it's a great opening hole.
Q. When you came here as a kid, where were you at in your golf life? Were you dreaming about playing here some day? What was it like? What do you remember about being a Patron, if you will? What do you remember about the experience of watching and not running and, you know, that kind of thing, if you were a kid?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I remember, I mean, I always thought I was going to play here. I didn't know when. I remember walking up the first and thinking, man, I didn't realize how hilly this place was.
You walk down that first hole, because you don't really see it on TV, you walk down and you walk up and you're huffing and puffing as a little kid.
And then all of a sudden you go down 2, and you're like, oh, man, I wasn't ready for this. That was my first experience walking those first two holes, and it was so much fun being a kid thinking, oh, man, I want to do this some day. You're looking up to watching Tiger, guys I had seen on TV, never really got to see in person, and finally getting to watch them play, you really understand how good they are and then you go home and you try to imitate all of them, or at least I did. Try to imitate Tiger's swing or whatever it might have been, but it was really eye‑opening, being nine, ten years old and coming and watching your idols.
Q. How did you end up getting here?
BROOKS KOEPKA: My dad brought me up and then I think maybe a couple years later, he brought my stepmom and my brother up and watched. It's a fun event, especially if you can bring the whole family. It makes it really a memory for a lifetime, I guess you could say.
Q. The last few years, the winner after the first round was no worse than 10th, and that was Adam Scott. Any idea why you think that might be?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I have no idea. That's an interesting stat. I mean, obviously you've got to get off to a good start in a major and at least build some confidence and kind of get it rolling. I have no answer why that would be. That's actually quite interesting. It kind of baffles me a little bit. Sorry.
Q. If you think about competing here in 2017, it wasn't that long ago, and yet in the time since, you've collected three majors. When you go to the first tee on Thursday, what's the tangible difference you feel as a player in confidence?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I've got three trophies that I haven't had any time I've teed it up. I've never been a Major Champion when I played here. Completely different player probably. Understand how to handle pressure a lot better. Understand this golf course a lot better. Even sitting out a year, there are certain things you can pick up on when you're watching.
And really kind of matured on and off the golf course I think is a big deal. Learning how to deal with‑‑ everything's kind of come at me fast over the last 18 months, 20 months, and you know, learning how to deal with that now, I'm becoming a little better at it, I guess you could say, so that makes everything a lot easier.
Q. Did you ever tell Phil that story, and did he ever say whether he remembered?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, he doesn't remember. I mean, I can't believe he doesn't remember the first time he ever said no to a kid, signing an autograph (laughter). I told him, I think in 2014, I think we were playing a practice round at the British Open. I had to tell him. I was like, "Listen, man, you stiffed me, and I really didn't like you for a long time."
But he was‑‑ he knows. He was typical Phil, right back at me; I shouldn't have been there. I've got his autograph now.
Q. What was the best autograph that week you actually did get?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't remember. I collected probably 50 of them. I mean, I pretty much got everybody. Didn't get Tiger. Everybody else, I pretty much got. All the players, when we come here, they are all so nice. You stand here as a little kid‑‑ as a player now, you want to sign for a little kid. It's hard to say no to a little kid.
Q. As someone who came here as a young kid, what do you think about the prevalence of ticket scalpers? The cheapest tickets tomorrow on Stub Hub are $3,000. Do you think that might be pricing families like yourself out of coming to Augusta?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Golf's an expensive sport. I'm not saying that that's okay, but everything that's a little bit more precious, is always going to be more expensive. That's why Ferraris are so expensive, or whatever, all these nice cars. It's simple. I mean, not many people have them and it's tough to get a ticket.
But that's what makes this experience so enjoyable, when you do come here. You feel like you're‑‑ if you come with your family or whoever you're coming with, I mean, people plan for a year what they are going to do when they get here and how they are going to be here; that's what makes it special.
So I mean, I'm not surprised. That's just kind of how things go.
Q. Those scalpers are getting those tickets illegally‑‑
BROOKS KOEPKA: Sorry, couldn't hear the last part of it.
Q. The fact that those scalpers have acquired those tickets illegally and are reselling when they're not supposed to, is that something that maybe we should be looking at?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think it happens in every sport. I mean, you're going to see it no matter where you go, Super Bowl, NCAA Tournament, whatever it is, it happens everywhere. It would be hard to stop it.
You know, I know there's ways, tracking the ticket number and all that stuff like that. Cracks down on it a little bit. But at the end of the day, you know, it's really hard to stop that.
Q. You mentioned taking time off, working out and having tests done at THE PLAYERS. Is there a lingering health issue right now?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No. No lingering. It's all quick fixes. Should be back to everything in a couple weeks. Just had a bunch of blood work and trying to figure out what was going on. Kind of‑‑ I mean, the diet I was on was probably not the best. I was like 1,800 calories a day. I mean, you're not going to be in the best physical shape at that point. You look at somebody like Michael Phelps or somebody like that eating 6,000 or 7,000 calories by lunch time. But I wanted to do it and try to lose some weight, and maybe went about it a little too aggressively for just a long period of time and the intensity of what I was doing.
Q. You've alluded to watching Tiger here when you were younger. If the winner this week is not Brooks Koepka, how special do you think it would be for golf for Tiger to win another one?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I think I already spoiled everybody of their dreams the last time we played. So, sorry. (Laughter).
I mean, it would be cool to see him win. I think everybody in the field would love to stop him. I mean, I enjoyed stopping history. I felt it was‑‑ I had a great time.
Yeah, I mean, you know, taking myself out of it, I think it would be absolutely incredible to watch. It would be incredible to see. We all know he's back. There's no doubt about that. You know, can he get it done; he seems like he's competing with The Open and the PGA, he's been very close. I wouldn't be surprised this week if he's knocking on the door.
Q. You described this week as being the most stressful of the week. What makes it more stressful than a U.S. Open week?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think I've probably got about, I don't know, a hundred texts for tickets. Like tickets is probably the hardest thing. Everybody wants to come, and obviously you've got family and you try to take care of your family. But a lot of friends feel like they can‑‑ they need tickets and they text last‑second. So that's always difficult.
I mean, telling people no is never fun, and sometimes you can‑‑ I don't want to say overpromise, but you've got to let people know, and then, you know, normally at a major week, not‑‑ the entire family doesn't come. I'm not saying the family adds stress, but you start adding so many people into what might normally be seven, eight people with me on a normal week, and now all of a sudden we've got 15, it's just a lot more.
I mean, they are grown adults. They know what they are doing, but just making sure everyone's got their tickets; they are in the right place, you've got the Par 3, making sure everybody comes in, the timing of it all. You know, majors are always stressful, but when everybody else comes, when you've got that large of a group, it makes it a little more difficult.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, that was a great interview. Wish you all the best for the week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports