Brooks Koepka’s mind isn’t cluttered with thoughts about Brandel Chamblee, the Golf Channel analyst who recently unleashed stingers at the major champion.
Nor is Koepka thinking ahead to his title defense in next week’s 101st PGA Championship and the accompanying media requests, or how he’ll deal with bruising Bethpage Black when the second major of the season begins.
Instead, his mind is focused on a treeless, wind-swept expanse named Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, home to the AT&T Byron Nelson. While other players are resting ahead of the PGA Championship and have taken reconnaissance trips to Bethpage Black, Koepka will ready himself by playing his way into the major.
“I like building a little bit of rhythm, finding your game, figuring out how to score, to manage your game and it’s worked for me,” the world’s No. 3-ranked player said ahead of Thursday’s start of the Byron Nelson. “We’ve looked at stats and usually my second week out is my best week.
“I’m not focused on shots for next week. I’m here to play this golf course. I’m not trying to manipulate anything. I see the shot I’m going to hit it and you’re not trying to focus on anything else. You just want to play well here. You’re not trying to blow this week off just to make sure you got a shot you might hit two, three times for next week. That doesn’t make any sense to me. You go out and play and see how you’re hitting it and make adjustments and kind of move on from there.”
BYRON NELSON: Tee times for Rounds 1, 2
Koepka, for now, has moved on from remarks Chamblee made starting at the Masters. That’s not to say Koepka won’t use any perceived slight to ratchet up his intensity a notch or two, but for now, he’s eyeing the first tee on Thursday and concentrating on a course he’s never played a competitive round on.
Next week he’ll surely be asked about Chamblee’s comments. At the Masters, Chamblee called Koepka’s weight loss “reckless sabotage” for “vanity reasons.” He also questioned Koepka’s toughness, saying he wasn’t convinced the winner of three majors in 14 months was tough enough to win the Masters.
Koepka responded by saying he didn’t care what anybody else says. And he responded with a 66 in the opening round at Augusta National and finished in a tie for second behind Tiger Woods.
Koepka had a different response when Chamblee, during a podcast after the Masters, said Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy are the players who could hang with Woods. No Koepka, despite winning three of the last eight majors, or three more than Johnson and McIlroy combined during that time frame. Koepka tweeted a link to the controversial comments with a photo of Chamblee that had been photoshopped to include a clown nose.
He’ll deal with the Chamblee questions next week. Starting Thursday, he’ll deal with Trinity Forest and a field that includes Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Patrick Reed. He’ll do so feeling more confident with his putting, as he started working again with coach Jeff Pierce at the Masters.
As for his swing, Koepka, who won in the fall in Korea and finished in a tie for second in the Honda Classic this year, has played just once. He teamed with his brother, Chase, to finish in tie for 22nd in the Zurich Classic.
After that, he didn’t touch a club for a week. But his form was intact earlier this week when, from a tee on Governor’s Island and the New York City skyline in the background, Koepka hit a barge floating in the Hudson 130 yards away. That means a free Michelob Ultra for anyone in New York. The free beers will be available May 16 – the first day of the PGA Championship. You can just hear the chants at Bethpage, “Beers on Brooks, Beers on Brooks.”
Koepka said he’s over a “lull” when he just wasn’t putting very well this season. He thinks that’s behind him. That’s not good news for the rest of his colleagues.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I’m happy where I’m at and hopefully I’ll have a good week this week.”