Brooks Koepka hopes caddie knows British Open's Royal Portrush 'like the back of his hand'

Eric Bolte/USA TODAY Sports

Brooks Koepka hopes caddie knows British Open's Royal Portrush 'like the back of his hand'

British Open

Brooks Koepka hopes caddie knows British Open's Royal Portrush 'like the back of his hand'

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When Brooks Koepka was asked Wednesday during his press conference ahead of the 3M Open in Blaine, Minn., if he’s ever played Royal Portrush Golf Club — the site of the British Open in two weeks’ time — the world No. 1 golfer gave a chuckle.

“Never been to Ireland,” Koepka said. “So that’s a ‘no.’”

For Koepka, the inaugural 3M Open at TPC Twin Cities offers a different feel than the links golf he’ll see during the final Major of 2019. But he’s hoping the tournament can point out things he can work on during the week leading up to The Open at an unfamiliar course.

Luckily for Koepka, though, his caddie, Ricky Elliott, grew up playing Royal Portrush. Koepka hopes Elliott, a Northern Ireland native, can offer insight into a course that hasn’t played host to The Open since 1951, as Koepka hunts his second major victory of the 2018-19 campaign.

“I hope he knows that golf course like the back of his hand,” Koepka said. “That was his home course growing up. It’s links golf. It’s always a bit different. I enjoy it, because I see about 10, 15 different shots every time I’m over the ball. … But [Elliott] knows that golf course probably better than anybody other than [Graeme McDowell].”

The 29-year-old Koepka, who has only one non-major win since 2015, said he won’t feel any extra pressure with a local caddie carrying his bag. Instead, he looks forward to playing in front of a Northern Ireland crowd, which will include fans of Elliott.

“He’s going to have a lot of support, which will be cool,” Koepka said. “I know that there’s a big fan base in Ireland — I mean, everybody loves golf in Ireland. It’ll be cool to go back there and to have it in his hometown. It’ll be a little bit more special.”

While the 3M Open won’t be played on a links course, Koepka felt the new PGA Tour event fit with his schedule nicely. And after a conversation with Hollis Cavner, a tournament organizer who brought the Tour back to Minnesota, Koepka felt the course might fit his playstyle, too.

Cavner told him it was a “big hitter’s” course. Koepka, who drives the ball on average 308.7 yards, looked forward to stepping to the tee box with a driver in hand.

“It’s tough to prep for links golf here,” Koepka said. “You gotta get over to Ireland early to prep for that. This week will be just, try to win a golf tournament. That’s the only thing I’m here to do.”

That, and likely build some momentum heading into The Open and a busy ending to the 2019 schedule. Koepka, who has finished as a runner-up in the Masters and U.S. Open while winning the PGA Championship in May, said the busy ending to the campaign is easy to handle because he generally starts the season late.

“Basically, from China onto Hawaii, I’m not touching clubs,” Koepka said. “I’ve put them away. Just take a little bit of a break.”

That time off helps now, the start of a rapid five-week stretch, beginning with the 3M Open, before the FedExCup Playoffs begin Aug. 8 at The Northern Trust. With the new PGA Tour schedule, which some golfers are still getting acquainted with, the season is more compact.

Koepka likes the change.

“It’s way easier,” he said. “The fact that [the majors are] compressed into about a five-month period, … if you get hot you can almost run the table or come close. It’s a good feeling knowing they’re so close together.”

Last month at the U.S. Open, Koepka shot 10-under 274 and finished second to Gary Woodland. He’ll tee off Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at the 3M Open, along with Kevin Na and Patrick Reed.

Koepka scarcely puts together winning golf at non-majors. A solid showing at TPC Twin Cities could set him up well for his caddie’s home course of Royal Portrush in two weeks.

“I want to get reps in this week,” Koepka said, “and feel confident going in.”

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