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May 14, 2019
Farmingdale, New York
JON DEVER: Good morning, and welcome back to the 2019 PGA Championship here at Bethpage Black. I am quite pleased to be joined by our defending champion, Mr. Brooks Koepka. Brooks, welcome to what is your seventh PGA Championship, and this one is a little bit unique for you. You're obviously our defending champion, but you're also defending Long Island as you won the U.S. Open a couple hours east of here out at Shinnecock last year. Maybe that takes us back to last summer and what a special year it was for you.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it really was. It's always nice to defend, but being in New York, I've got good memories. You know, it's a fun place to play. It's a fun place to play in front of the fans. They're all energetic, and you come back and you've got good feelings this week and just kind of hopefully you ride that momentum.
JON DEVER: PGA Championship has moved to May, so how is a south Florida guy going to be dealing with what is a soggy golf course and colder temperatures than you may have experienced last year in St. Louis?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Slightly colder than it was in St. Louis. I mean, it's fine. We deal with it all the time. It's not a big deal. It's something -- this golf course is already long. But being wet, it'll be interesting to see. It makes the fairways a little bit wider, which I think could be in our benefit or especially the longer hitters because we can get it a little bit further down there. And usually the longer hitters aren't as accurate, so open up those fairways for us, and these greens will be quite receptive.
As slopey as they are, you've really got to position the ball quite well here.
Q. Brooks, it looked like you played pretty well in Dallas. I was wondering what you saw in your game that you liked and maybe what you saw that needs a little bit of sharpening upcoming into this week.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I feel good. I like the way I was striking the ball. I felt like I was controlling the ball nicely, flighting it nicely, controlling the spin. I was really pleased with that.
Maybe just clean up a few chips. I kind of hit some sloppy chips. I'm not too concerned about that. It'll be fine. Pete Cowan is here this week, so just make sure that's on point after Wednesday and going into the event. But everything feels really good. I like where my game is at. I like playing the week before just to kind of build that rhythm. I've said it before, if I was home, I probably wouldn't be practicing, so it's nice to get out the week before and build on that rhythm.
Q. Brooks, as you look at the scorecard and the yardages and as you've played this golf course before, what holes in particular are you looking forward to attacking the most?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think you've got to attack the par-5s. I think it's pretty simple. With my length being what it is, you've really got to take advantage of the par-5s. It's a tough golf course. You're not going to make too many birdies, and when you can, you really need to take advantage of it because there's not too many holes where you step up on the tee and you're like, man, this is an easy hole, I can really take advantage of it.
Take care of the par-5s and just try to hang on on the rest of them.
Q. You and Tiger have exchanged one-two finishes in the last two majors. How much do you see this as a rivalry between you two even though there is a little bit of a age difference, and what will it be like to be on the course with him the first two rounds? You guys weren't really paired together the last two.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, there's a little bit of an age difference there. He's a little bit older. But I don't see it as a rivalry. I mean, it's just golf. I mean, it's not like it's been -- there's a huge history there where it's been over -- like football, you've got a rivalry that's been over 20, 30 years. I mean, it's just really been the last couple years.
So I don't see it as a rivalry, although it is fun to play against him, best player to ever play the game. We're talking about -- you guys want to talk about rivalry, I think that's pretty cool to hear. It's exciting for me.
But I'm just looking forward to this week, to playing with him. It'll be interesting. I don't think we've really -- we haven't been paired together too much, especially over the last couple years. He's been in the group in front or group behind. It'll definitely be interesting.
Q. Players often speak about trying to peak four times a year. You've done a pretty good job of figuring that out over the last couple years. I guess the question is how.
BROOKS KOEPKA: I like to play the week before. I think it's something that's kind of helped me. Dallas last week, every time I've won, I've played the week before. We've looked at stats, we've looked at everything, and trying to figure out how I can better myself when it comes to a major. And I think playing that week before, building a rhythm, just getting a little bit more touch, a little bit more feel, and then working on whatever I need to work on, it's pretty simple.
I keep things maybe more low key this week than I would on a normal week and try to -- I don't want to say take it less serious, but more of a relaxed atmosphere. I think sometimes you can kind of over -- out-psych yourself, so I just don't let that bug me. Hey, it's just one week, one hole. You go out there, try not to make any bogeys, and if you're going to make -- if you're in trouble, just don't make a double because doubles are going to cost you majors, like Augusta.
Q. When you came to the U.S. Open, you had mentioned that you felt overlooked, a little underrated. Do you still have that feeling?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, not as much, no. No. I think at the U.S. Open, yeah, I was more of that; and now so, not really. I'm just trying to go out and go play golf. Everything seems to kind of take on a story of its own. That's kind of helped out a little bit, I think, sometimes.
But yeah, I feel like it's -- it is what it is, and I'm just trying to be me. I think I'm doing a better job of that, letting you guys kind of into my life or not viewing you guys as the enemy, which I kind of did maybe earlier on in my career; where 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.
Q. Having won a U.S. Open setup and a PGA setup, and this was prior a U.S. Open venue, now it's a PGA, describe the differences between the two in your mind.
BROOKS KOEPKA: It's actually not that far off. I mean, I think the PGA, typically, they've got a lot of rough. The rough is very thick. U.S. Open you're pretty much getting the same thing. The way this golf course is set up, it's very similar to a U.S. Open-PGA mix, and that's why I think it's perfect for it. It's very tough. I think the score will be somewhat around even par, maybe a little bit better, depending on how cold it gets, how much rain, because I think it's supposed to rain Thursday and Friday.
This golf course is going to be tough. It's probably going to play like a combination of both of them, I think.
Q. Where do you think Brooks Koepka has the most room for improvement?
BROOKS KOEPKA: That's a good question. I don't know. I mean, you can always get better from 100 and in, dial in the wedge game, make sure -- nothing frustrates me more than having a wedge in your hand and making bogey, just like everybody else. I think it's -- you're looking at making a birdie, having a close putt for birdie, having a good look, and then you miss a green or three-putt, trying to be a little too aggressive, and I would say that's probably the weakest part of my game right now.
Anything inside eight feet I feel like is good. I feel like I'm going to make it. And then off the tee, we've kind of switched -- I've started hitting this little fairway finder a little bit more. It's more of a lower flighting cut. I've started maybe middle of last year at Shinnecock doing that, and I've just stuck with it. I don't know my driving percentages, if they've gone up, but I feel like I'm hitting the driver way better, way more control. The misses are better, and everything is just trying to get more consistent.
Q. Do you have a number in mind as to where your career will be acceptable to you given this trajectory you're on right now is immense? Do you have a goal, a number? Tiger was driven by Jack's number. Is there something in your --
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, I've got a number. I don't see why you can't get to double digits. I think you keep doing what you're supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times. Like I said, 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, who's going to play good and who can win.
I don't see any reason it can't get to double digits.
Q. Brooks, Sunday at Augusta, where were you when Tiger was playing 18, and what was that experience like for you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I was in the -- I think I was signing my scorecard while he was coming up 18. I just sat there and watched it. I mean, I think it's something that any player, any fan, any golfer was probably glued to the TV at that moment watching it. It was pretty neat, pretty special for all of us.
You know, it was great to see him win. I was a little bit disappointed. I felt like I kind of let it slip a little bit. But at the same time, that's what our sport needed. We needed him to win a major. It's good for everybody. It's good for the sponsors, good for the players, good for fans. It's just good to have Tiger back winning majors. But to be there on 18 and congratulated him when he was done, it was fun to be a part of because that atmosphere, when he was done, was pretty special.
Q. When Tiger hit that sort of funky second shot on 18, what were you thinking at that point?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, it was over once I missed the putt. Poulter's putt kind of threw me off a little bit, watching his. I mean, Tiger even did the same thing, it kind of hung out there. Poulter's went right. I had seen it -- I knew it was a new green, but in years past everyone kind of made it on the low side. I was going to go outside the hole, and then watching Poulter's move right, I just figured I'd bash it right in the hole dead straight, and it just moved.
When he hit the shot, it was more of a -- he left it in the perfect spot to make 5. It took 6 out of play. It didn't matter at that point. I knew it was over.
Q. You told us on a call this week that you expect Tiger now to be in contention on Sundays but you don't fear him. Why not?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, what's the point in fearing anybody? We're not fighting. I mean, unless I was standing there and not prepared for a punch. Other than that, he's not going to knock my teeth in. He's not going to hurt me. So what's there to be afraid of?
Q. This golf course obviously is known as a pretty brute test. There's a lot of strong holes out here. 18 is not one of them. I just wonder what your thoughts on 18 are and what experience you've had there.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, from what I remember, it's -- I think it's like a 3-iron off the tee. You're just trying to play for position. And then from there, it's -- I don't think it's as easy as people think it is. You know, you put it in those bunkers, you can get a funky lie. It's a great finishing hole. You can make a disaster. You can make bogey from being in the middle of the fairway pretty quickly.
But also I think, if you put it in the fairway, you can be as aggressive as you want. You can take it over the bunkers if you choose to and really have kind of a flip wedge in; or you can hit 3-iron, which I think is what we've done in the past, and lay back and just try to win it from your second shot or try to win it from there.
Q. You said before that you might have fed the narrative of Brooks Koepka over the last couple years, but does criticism from the outside or from the media motivate you at all? Does it play any part in wanting to get more wins or more majors?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, some of it was a little bit manufactured. I think some of it was quite real. Like I said in the past, 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.
I get Tiger was back, so it's a little bit different. You know, a lot of the attention was going to be there. But some of it was a little bit manufactured on myself. But 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, whatever it might be, to really want to push you over that line.
Q. You've had so much success in the majors; how did you rebound from the Masters coming so close? Was it tougher than normal, handling that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No. I mean, I played good. I mean, I don't know what I was supposed to do. I hit every shot coming down on the back nine just like I wanted to. You know, obviously hit one in the water on 12. I mean, that was just pure wind. The wind should have been a little bit off the right, and then I backed off it because it went down off the left, and then when I hit it it was into off the left.
When you see that ball climb on the last little bit, it gets above those trees and starts floating, and then it starts drifting with the wind, the way that hole is set up, it's not going to reach the green.
You're aiming for the middle of the green, it doesn't happen. It's just golf. I mean, there's nothing to rebound from. You know, I take it -- yeah, second place, it's not fun, but at the same time you've just got to move on. It's in the past. I could care less what happened last week or a couple years ago. It's all about this week.
Q. You mentioned this fairway finder shot. Is that something that you've been developing in the past few months? And what kind of adjustments do you make in your setup or your swing in order to hit that shot?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it's been about maybe a year that we've kind of -- we've found it. It actually was kind of -- I don't want to say a drill, but it was something we'd worked on on the driving range to when I was working with Claude, just to really kind of feel coming over the ball. Sometimes I get a little stuck underneath and it was kind of a drill to make sure we faded it.
All I do is just set up left and maybe -- I guess if you really want to go into feel, I feel like I hit down on it a little bit more. Probably hit down on it two degrees, but I probably hit down four on those and just make sure it cuts from there and just turn it as hard as I can, and it's always going to start at the left side of the fairway and come back. Ball flight is a little bit lower, but it's just developed into something that I've taken to the golf course and something that's kind of actually helped my overall swing because it makes sure that I'm not underneath it. It's just a bad tendency that I have, and it helps with the overall game.
Q. You mentioned about taking advantage of the par-5s here. But in general, how important is length going to be on this soggy, long golf course? Is driver going to be the most important club in the bag this week?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, if you can't find the fairway here, I think you're really going to run into issues. You put it in the rough, the rough is -- I haven't been out on the golf course yet, but I'm assuming the rough is deep. It's going to be wet, which makes it -- if you're going to hit it in the rough, I don't think you're going to be able to go for the greens, so that's more a guess. I'll know more when I get out there. But it's almost 7,500. Wet, it's going to be playing about 77. That's a long golf course. You're going to need to be able to hit the ball far and hit it straight.
Q. Speaking of those conditions, what did it give you to play in Europe for that time period that you did, playing these difficult conditions and different courses?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, yeah, it was great to play over there, play in different conditions, different golf courses, all that. I mean, when you're over there in England, it's not the best weather conditions to play all year-round, so you get used to it. You just battle it out. I think sometimes it's actually a little bit easier when it's poor conditions, rainy, windy, whatever. You just know some guys are going to get frustrated. Bad shots are going to turn into really bad shots, and you've just got to really focus in a little bit more, and I think that's what's going to help me, because I can really zone in and really make sure that each shot counts.
Q. We've heard you say several times majors are the easiest to win; yet that seems too simple for complicated minds. What has led you to internalize this approach which clearly seems to be a winning approach?
BROOKS KOEPKA: The easiest way I can break it down is there's -- what is there, 140 --
JON DEVER: 156 in the field.
BROOKS KOEPKA: 156 in the field, so you figure at least 80 of them I'm just going to beat. From there, the other -- you figure about half of them won't play well from there, so you're down to about maybe 35. And then from 35, some of them just -- pressure is going to get to them. It only leaves you with a few more, and you've just got to beat those guys.
If you just hang around -- I think one of the big things that I've learned over the last few years is you don't need to win it, you don't have to try to go win it. Just hang around. If you hang around, good things are going to happen.
So I think that's what's kind of caused me an issue in the regular PGA TOUR events. I've gone out on Saturday and tried to build a cushion, maybe pressed a little bit too hard and gotten ahead of myself, where in the majors I just stay in the moment. I never think one hole ahead. I'm not thinking about tomorrow. I'm not thinking about the next shot. I'm just thinking about what I've got to do right then and there. And I kind of dummy it down and make it very simple, and I think that's what helps me.
Q. Last year you entered at Shinnecock as the defending champion of the U.S. Open, and you said basically it was -- somebody had to come and take it away from you. Do you feel that way coming in as the defending PGA champion?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, I have the trophy. Someone has got to -- I feel like I'm playing really good. The last time we played this championship, I won. I feel like I like my chances this week. I feel like I'm playing good. You know, if I do what I'm supposed to do, then yeah, I think I'd be tough to beat. But at the end of the day, you never know what's going to happen. You've got to go out and play four good days. So we'll see when the gun goes off on Thursday.
Q. Brooks, you look very calm once you're out there, really controlling your emotions. Is that something you have in your own nature or something that you had to work on once you got to the PGA TOUR, and how important is that in order to be able to win the tournaments and close them out?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I used to be a hothead. In college I couldn't understand why I'd hit the ball 15, 20 feet right of the flag. It was very -- I just couldn't understand a bad golf shot. Get hot, break clubs all the time, and then when I turned pro, I knew I needed to fix that a little bit. It's something I needed to calm down, relax a little bit, take a step back. And once I figured that out, I watched Dustin, obviously, the way he handled it. I liked that. And then G-Mac, you look at his grit and the way he always -- he never believes he's out of it. He's always got a chance to win. And I kind of took those two and kind of made it my own.
Another thing, I think I'm very stone-faced, very focused, but I also don't want to give guys an idea of what's going on. I don't want them to -- I'm not nervous at all. I don't feel the pressure because I think -- I've said it before, pressure comes when you're thinking about results. But when I'm out there, I don't want them to -- if I'm hitting 7-iron and they know they're a club shorter than me, so it should be a perfect 6, if I mis-hit it and it goes hole high, I'm not going to give them an advantage of, hey, maybe I mis-hit that, or you see guys one-arm it, things like that. I feel like that giving other guys an advantage of how you hit it, and they can really tell how they're playing.
I think a lot of times it's more not to let anybody know what's going on in my head, kind of keep it a mystery. But I just keep it very simple. I think it's easier to just -- you see the ball, try to make it a reaction sport. Last look, you're just looking at the target, and you just want to finish it there. It's like shooting a free throw.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports