Still (unbelievably) under the radar, Koepka goes for three-peat

Still (unbelievably) under the radar, Koepka goes for three-peat

Just don't leave the two-time defending champion out of the U.S. Open promo

Reid Spencer Editor & Publisher
image (AP Photo/Matt York)
Brooks Koepka shares a light moment with reporters during an interview session on Tuesday at Pebble Beach.

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- To Brooks Koepka, it’s all about the view—the view from the fairways of Pebble Beach, the view of the task at hand and the view of himself.

Koepka comes to the 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links with a chance to duplicate a feat accomplished more than 100 years ago. Willie Anderson won consecutive U.S. Opens in 1903, 1904 and 1905. No other player has won more than two straight.

But Koepka isn’t focused on Anderson’s record. Other than seeing the name of the Scotsman on a plaque during a visit to Scotland, Koepka doesn’t know much about Anderson. Koepka has never “googled” him.

In fact, the only time Koepka has used Google recently was to find out how to change his cell phone number—after strange texts and phone calls started to show up on his view screen.

“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,” Koepka said on Tuesday before getting his first look at Pebble Beach’s back nine.

“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.”

Therein lies the dichotomy in Koepka’s view of himself. He guards his privacy jealously, but he can't fathom an almost diosrespectful lack of recognition for his accomplishments. During a major week, he rents a house with the same small group of friends and associates. He leaves his golf game on the golf course, preferring not to discuss the rounds he has just played when he’s away from competition.

Koepka has never watched video of any of his rounds, even those from the majors he has won. He’s waiting for that until his career is in his rear view.

“I've never watched any of the rounds I've ever played,” Koepka said. “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.”

Even though he has won the last two U.S. Opens and the last two PGA Championships, Koepka isn’t exactly a household face or name. Last week at the RBC Canadian Open, when Koepka was at a gym working out, another patron struck up a conversation with Koepka about having just seen Dustin Johnson in the gym. The stranger apparently didn’t know who Koepka was.

“I was working out next to some guy in Canada, and he was talking about how Dustin was just in there and how cool it was,” Koepka said. “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.”

Koepka wasn’t laughing, however, when he saw the promotional spot for this year’s U.S. Open. Guarding your privacy is one thing. Being left out of the conversation entirely is something different.

“There's a commercial (running) now where I'm not even in it, and FOX put it up for a preview of the U.S. Open,” Koepka said incredulously. “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?

“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.”

And yet, despite the four majors and the snubs he uses for motivation, Koepka view of himself remains consistently simple.

“I view myself completely differently than people view me,” Koepka said. “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'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.”

On Thursday, he’ll be a regular guy facing an extraordinary challenge.

“There's a lot on the line,” Koepka said. “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 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.”

And, Koepka acknowledges, incredibly difficult.

“I'm not thinking about it,” he said. “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… 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.”

(Brooks Koepka, practice round: AP Photos/David J. Phillip)

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