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January 14, 2020

Brooks Koepka

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

CLARE BODEL: Brooks, welcome back to Abu Dhabi. How does it feel to be here?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I love this place. I always fun to get back to. Kind of reminds me of when I first came over here to The Challenge Tour and spent a bunch of time here in Dubai. I love this place. The golf course is really good. It's in great shape, even after all the rain that they have had here. It's just a place I like coming to. I felt comfortable here and hopefully play well this week.

CLARE BODEL: A few of your compatriots are here, but you prayed a practise round with young, up-and-coming Josh Hill. Do you enjoy it?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I enjoyed it. Josh is a good player. Hopefully learned something. He beat me in an eight-hole match yesterday, so he got the better of me, which I'm sure enjoyed, as he should.

It's cool. It's always fun to get to play with these young kids, and you really see in ten years when I'm close to being on my way out, all these kids that will be up and winning a bunch. It's cool to see. You know, it will be cool to see in the next five, ten years how much he progresses.

CLARE BODEL: This is a big tournament this week, the first event in the Rolex Series. What would it mean to get this tournament on your resumé? You have a pretty impressive resumé as it stands.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Obviously it would be nice. These Rolex Series Events are what you have more emphasis on winning. It's what you want to win. The players that are playing in this event are obviously really good, some of the best players in the world. That's why I think everyone's here. You want to play in the top events. You want to play in the best events you can, and win them.

Q. A little bit of comparison from two years ago when you were out for almost 17 weeks with a wrist injury at the start of the year. This was towards the end of the year, almost 14 weeks out, and then you came back in 2018 and did all that that you did, does this injury and the layoff give you more motivation, and how did you prepare for 2020 in these 14 weeks?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know if it gives me more motivation. I don't think it does. I think it -- when you have something you love and it's taken away from you, I think it makes you appreciate it more and really enjoy being out here.

I mean, I miss competition. I've missed showing up to an event preparing for something, because I haven't had anything to prepare for. When you have three months off, it's not fun, I know that. But it makes me appreciate the game more every time and hopefully I don't have anymore of those situations.

But I'm excited. I'm just excited to hit balls. When I started hitting, it's the same thing. It's exciting and it's enthusiasm to get out there and go play. It's been, last year, there wasn't much practise. I just couldn't do it with my knee. I think everybody saw it on my team towards the end of the year. I couldn't get on my left side. I couldn't do things. Couldn't squat down in a bunker. I struggled to get down and read a putt. You know, thankfully that's in the past now.

Q. Josh is from our region and we are very looking forward to a great career with him. You played with him. Was there something he was eager to find out from you, and what kind of advice do you give when you play with someone as young as Josh and you see him play alongside you? What kind of advice do you tend to give to such youngsters?
BROOKS KOEPKA: He asked good questions. I thought that was important. I think being so young, I would -- if I was in his shoes, I would have been afraid to ask. He wasn't afraid to ask, which I think is very important and very mature for his age. He's a good player. Putts it really well. Short game is really good. Strikes it really well.

But the questions he was asking, and how to handle the week, how to go about being aggressive, his aggressiveness, how -- when to attack things, when to not, and give him some advice on how to play a little bit and how I go about things. Not saying that it's the right way for everybody, but just a little bit of insight.

You always want to pick a good player's mind. Doesn't matter if you're doing it today. You try to pick all the guys that have been around, played a long time, and pick their brains. I think it's important, and the fact that he's doing it at 15, if he keeps doing that and keeps progressing as he should, you know, he'll be out here very shortly.

Q. What were you doing when you were 15?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Causing trouble (laughter). I'm sure if you ask my parents that, they would be shaking their heads.

Q. Where was your golf at that stage?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It wasn't as far along as Josh's, I know that. I didn't get too play many tournaments. When I grew up, we didn't have any -- we didn't have much money, so we couldn't afford to travel and go play golf. I was working. I tried to practise, you know, I was working, but I was trying to practise, too. I'd go to the range and kind of stop the picker in the back, hit a couple balls in the back and then go pick them up. It wasn't anything to brag about.

Q. Can you just talk about the timeline of your injury and what procedure you had and the exact nature of it?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, I've had problems with it since March. Dealt with it the whole year, all the way till -- I had stem cell done on my knee and it felt fine all the way through Vegas, all the way to Korea. Everything felt good. And then in Korea, just slipped, and you know re-tore it and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad, which, that's excruciating. It's a lot of pain. It's not fun. It's been -- I mean, we flew back, I think Saturday. I got in Saturday night and I started rehab on Monday.

So I was very, you know, all the way through, still doing it now. Still doing a lot of rehab. Before gym, after the gym, getting in there. Been trying to make sure everything feels right, and it does not feel like my right knee, I'll be honest with you. It doesn't feel the same as my right. It probably won't for a while. But it does feel stable, which leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month and a half ago, it just doesn't feel stable. It felt like it could go either way. It could go left, out, back, it could go anyway.

Q. Were you operating 100 percent last year through the major season?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No. No. But I don't think anybody's ever operating at 100 percent. I think that's a rarity in sports. I mean, especially with how much -- everybody's dinged up a little bit. Nobody wants to hear an excuse. So.

I'm not going to come out and tell you I've got the sniffles or tell you my knee hurts. Just get on with it and go play. I mean, I won with it, so I don't see any issue with it.

Q. This year promises to be a very exciting year with many players at their best. Justin Thomas just won recently. Rory McIlroy has had a very good end of season. Tiger Woods, as well. So I have two questions for you. First of all, how much do you see Tiger as a threat this year in the majors, and which event are you looking forward to the most? Is it the Olympics, The Ryder Cup or any major in particular?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think we know all four tournaments that I'm looking forward to. I think that's pretty obvious. That's what everybody gears their year around.

You're trying to get in the swing of things to start it off, obviously. Those are -- to me, the way I see it, that's what everybody is remembered by. You guys are better at stats, but we can all sit here and tell you how many Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, how many majors they won, but I don't know how many tournaments they won.

But I think other than Tiger, because he's close to the record, but majority of the guys, you can't tell me how many PGA TOUR tour events or events they won. You're remembered by your majors. That's where my focus is, trying to play well there.

And what was -- Tiger? All depends on his health and how he's feeling. I'm not in his body. So if he feels good, I think he showed us all he can still play and still compete at a high level. If he's healthy, yeah, he'll be there. If he's not healthy, hopefully he does get healthy.

Q. How much of the Presidents Cup did you catch and how badly do you miss it? Does it motivate you for The Ryder Cup better?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it does. Obviously it's not fun to miss a team competition, because I think those are some of the most fun events we play all year. Being in the team room with everybody, you feel the camaraderie, the bond that you make with those guys, it kind of lasts forever. It's a special thing to be in these team rooms. I enjoy it. It's so much fun.

I watched more on Saturday and Sunday. I was in -- I was doing rehab in San Diego, and stopped into a restaurant and had them change a channel to the golf so I could watch it, and then watched the guys come back and win. That was pretty cool.

Q. How much does it motivate you for The Ryder Cup?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, I hope I'm on the team. I think that would be -- that's everybody's goal. It doesn't matter starting the year, I think that's something that's on every American and European's goal list. I think that's what they are looking forward to. Especially because we just lost the last one, and I think it's in the United States, so I know we are looking forward to and hopefully we come out and do what we're supposed to do.

Q. On the back of your comments about the four majors, of the other venues, what do you like about them and what do you know about them?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Not much. I think the Match Play was out at Harding Park in 2015, something like that. I don't know much about the other ones.

Q. Have you played Royal St. George's?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Never played there. Watched it the year Ben Curtis won there. I was at that Open. I watched it. I watched him win. But I mean, I can't remember much of the holes.

So I mean, I'll probably to make a trip out to New York before and go check it out, but don't know much about them to be honest with you. But that's what the prep's for. Go in there early, Monday to Wednesday, figure out all the info you need. My caddie, Rickie, might have been there. I don't know. I haven't asked him. We'll see.

Q. This week marks the introduction of The European Tour's new regulations aimed at targeting slow play and it's just been announced there's a revision, immediate one-shot penalty for two bad times in a tournament. Do you think that's a good thing and how important is it for golf that this regulation is coming in?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I think it's a good thing. I think the game's changing and I think the rules need to kind of change with it. I think that's why you've seen so many different rule changes, equipment changes, things like that going on. You know, it's got to evolve as we evolve, the courses evolve and technology, everything like that.

They are trying to make the game a lot simpler, and I think making these changes is, you know, we're on our way to making it easier to understand for the fans at home, the players. It's very clear-cut what's going to happen and very clear-cut what you need to do.

I think when everybody knows the rules, it's a lot easier.

Q. Did I understand you to say that you were at St. George's when Ben Curtis won?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yes. I was there.

Q. You were very young?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I was. I remember I went with my mom and my brother. We were over on a trip all over the U.K., Scotland. Spent a few days down in London. We got to go, I think -- I can't remember if it was Saturday or Sunday, but we definitely were there Sunday watching him.

I remember it was actually kind of funny, my brother shouted at Tiger and he shouted back at my brother, something like, "Thanks, Bud," or whatever it was. We thought it was the coolest thing ever. I was 12, maybe, something like that.

It's been a while since then. I mean, I don't remember much of it. I just remember Ben won coming down the stretch there.

Q. Was that the first time you had been to Britain?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it was, actually. First time.

Q. Any other impressions?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I was 12 years old. I really couldn't experience too much. Whatever my mom wanted to do, I was kind of following.

Q. In these weeks leading up to Augusta, how important is it for you to remain as world No. 1, and is there any psychological significance standing on the first tee at Augusta holding that position?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't think so. I don't think it matters. It doesn't matter to me -- yeah, it's nice to be world No. 1. I think there is a little bit of -- a little bit of everybody that wants to be world No. 1. Otherwise, why is it a competition, you know.

But the only thing I'm looking forward to it the prep leading up to it is, okay, am I playing good, am I trending in the right direction going to Augusta, and that's -- you know, usually, I haven't played very much over the break. Kind of come in trying to play my way into it, where I feel like now, I've had a few weeks of practise where I feel good because usually I'm over here trying to find it.

You know, Hawai'i is usually where I start, and trying to get the practise in there and try to build up to it. But now, having a little bit of practise feels good, and hopefully, out of competition for three months, so just try to get back in the swing of competition.

I think that's important, and build your way up to Augusta. I think that's pretty much what every player tries to do. You hear guys talking about it from when the year ends, how they are trying to build up to Augusta and I think that's the way everybody goes about it.

Q. Not sure if you saw it, but on the PGA TOUR website last week, Rory was talking about the season, and he says that he believes he's the best player in the world on his day. What do you make of that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: He should. He should believe that. Everybody playing should think that. I mean, if you don't think you're the best player, what's the point. Everybody comes here trying to win. That's the goal. If you don't believe you're the best deep down, then there's something wrong with you. You might as well quick.

Q. And the Olympics, where is that on your priority list?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I've been trying to do my knee. I've been worried about my knee. I haven't thought about it. Just honestly thinking about trying to play, trying to get over here for this. I don't want to say this was kind of up in the air, but it was -- we weren't 100 percent on it too long ago.

Q. You mentioned about watching the Presidents Cup. How much golf did you consume during the off-period? Were you checking leaderboards? Were you watching golf on Instagram, Golf Channel? How much was your consumption?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I watched the Presidents Cup and that was it. That was the only golf I watched. Usually during that time, it's kind of my off time, anyway. There's a lot of other sport going on, football, basketball. I'll watch those.

Q. When did you get the green light to come here and how worried were you that it wasn't going to happen?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I don't know if I wasn't -- I wasn't too worried it wasn't going to happen. I just didn't -- I just didn't know when it was -- or even if I came back, right. Even if I got the green light, whether it was going to feel right, whether you're going to be the same, how is it going to feel.

I started hitting balls, I think just before Christmas, was about the first time I hit balls. Everything felt good. Speed was the same. We were hitting on TrakMan and my numbers were exactly what they were the day I left. So it's always nice, and then from there, you're just practising.

Then I think from that moment on, after a couple days of hitting balls and not feeling pain, it was, okay, I could get back here and do this and finally play.

Q. Do you have any worries with what's happening in the world at the moment?

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