Lynch: Listen carefully for the punches Koepka doesn't pull

brooks koepka Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Lynch: Listen carefully for the punches Koepka doesn't pull

PGA Tour

Lynch: Listen carefully for the punches Koepka doesn't pull

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ATLANTA – For a man who has won three titles and more than $9.6 million this season, Brooks Koepka has produced some of his most memorable shots while indoors.

The world No. 1 did so again Wednesday when he met with the press at the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club, delivering a jab so subtle as to have been lost on the untrained ear.

Koepka has been an outspoken critic of slow play, calling for stiff penalties against lallygagging PGA Tour players. He was asked about a policy announced this week by the European Tour that cracks down on idlers by imposing stroke penalties, not the meaningless fines used this side of the Atlantic.

“Perfect. We should adopt it,” Koepka replied. Then came the surgical insertion of the needle.

“I think you’ll see some urgency to play. It doesn’t matter how quick you walk. It doesn’t matter how quick you do anything.”

The “quick walk” argument — that hoofing it to one’s ball faster excuses taking more time than permitted to execute the next shot — is the flaccid defense of Bryson DeChambeau, a notorious laggard and someone with whom Koepka has sparred on the issue.

In February, Koepka called DeChambeau out by name at a tournament in Saudi Arabia. They had another skirmish two weeks ago at the Northern Trust in New Jersey, during a week when DeChambeau was castigated on social media after video showed him taking an eternity to play two routine shots. On the morning of the final round, DeChambeau brusquely asked Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, to tell his boss to share any comments about slow play “to my face.” Upon receiving the message, Koepka did just that, approaching DeChambeau on the putting green.

Their head-to-head overshadowed the tournament action and prompted the Tour to announce it would look at ways to tackle slow play. DeChambeau said afterward that he prefers to settle such matters in private, an astute retreat when his antagonist has demonstrated a mastery of the microphone that rivals his on-course exploits.

Koepka appears to have the resting heart rate of Hannibal Lecter, but his press conferences have become compelling entertainment as he ambles to the podium with the cool air of a riverboat gambler and promptly lays his cards on the table, whether calling out slow players or slapping back at critics like Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee. He dependably offers the kind of candor seldom seen among the khaki-clad clones who populate professional golf. Winning four major championships in three years gives a man that kind of moxy.

Koepka is the two-time reigning PGA Championship winner and begins Thursday’s first round three shots behind the last man to win that trophy not named Koepka. Justin Thomas has been gifted a 10-under-par starting position in a controversial effort by the PGA Tour to mimic home field advantage, rewarding players for their play in the two previous playoff events.

Koepka stands third in the FedEx Cup points race. He’ll begin the finale 7-under-par, meaning that at the very least he has to clip Thomas by four shots to have any hope of victory. It’s feasible that he can shoot the lowest score of the week and lose, since both Thomas and Patrick Cantlay are ahead of him on the leaderboard before a ball has been struck. The new system doesn’t sit easily with some players, but Koepka doesn’t seem concerned.

“You never know what’s going to happen. As long as J.T. doesn’t go out and go shoot 62s on the first two days, then I think everybody has a chance,” he said.

Whatever the outcome at East Lake, Koepka will settle one battle against Thomas by Sunday night. At the beginning of the season, the pair bet on how many times they’d hole out from at least 50 yards. “A stupid bet on my part,” admitted Koepka, who has holed only one such shot all season.

Asked if paying off that bet was extra motivation to win the FedEx Cup and its $15 million bonus, Koepka answered with his now familiar mix of candor and dry humor. “I’ve got the cash. I can go pay him,” said the man who has pocketed almost $10 million this season. “I’ve got it here with me. I’ve got enough.”

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