PGA Tour professional Brooks Koepka talks to the media ahead of the start of the controversial Saudi International tournament about his recent return from injury, relationship with Kobe Bryant and the new Premiere Golf league.
European Tour: Brooks Koepka speaks with the media prior to Saudi International
STEVE TODD: Pleased to welcome Brooks Koepka back to the interview room. Brooks obviously you played in the inaugural event last year. Just give us your thoughts on being back here at Royal Greens this week and having seen the back nine today, your thoughts on the course and how it’s developed.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it’s gotten a lot better than it was last year. Any time you can give a course an extra year to really develop, you’re going to see the progression of it. The greens are a lot faster. The rough’s a lot thicker. It’s settled in nicely.
I’ve only played nine holes, but it looks incredible shape just as it was last year, just a little more settled in, which will be different. You never know what the scores could be. A few greens are a little firmer and faster, and if the wind gets up like it usually does in the afternoon, it might be a different story this year. You don’t know.
STEVE TODD: And you made your return from injury in Abu Dhabi a couple of weeks ago. Give us a sense of what you’ve been doing in the period over in Dubai and your thoughts on the game coming into this week.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Just practised all week. I had three months off, so there was no point in having a holiday or a vacation. It was more of a work thing. Just got the game ready. Felt good in Abu Dhabi. Felt good in Dubai. Feels good here.
Just a matter of going out and executing. I played just fine, great shots in Abu Dhabi. Just didn’t score and that’s my own fault. Just coming here to try to figure it out and put some scores together, put some rounds together, and yeah, try to eliminate some mistakes.
Q. You put out quite an emotional Tweet after the dental of Kobe Bryant, posting that message. Can you talk about that message? Was it personal to you — it referred to injury recovery?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, he sent that to Gordon Hayward when he destroyed his leg about two years ago, with the Celtics. He sent it to him and I remember reading it and thinking, wow, that was pretty cool.
My wrist, I had it in the background of my phone every day. So it was something, his words were what I looked at every day, or every time I looked at my phone, which I think everybody knows is about 20, 30 times a day, if not more. Just pick it apart, see different things. It kind of helped me understand that it’s okay to be upset. Okay, I don’t want to say I was depressed, but you get pretty down, and just the fact that it’s okay to be down and figure it out and actually grow and enjoy the process. Because it sucks at the time, but what’s going to come out in the end is going to be a whole lot better and it makes you appreciate everything and look at it different.
Q. What stands out to you about him?
BROOKS KOEPKA: To me, I was a Lakers fan because of him. I kind of missed the Jordan era, so anybody I think my age was a big, big Kobe fan. I mean, I cried, I cried that night. I’ve never met him, but I cried for him, you know, just for him, his family and everybody that was golfed. I guess goosebumps now thinking about it. I just can’t imagine those last — you know, those last few seconds, having to hold your daughter and not know and not see the rest of your family again. Made you really appreciate life and what you have, and golf’s a stupid game that we just play. It’s really not that important. I know everybody likes to think it is, but it’s not. Your family, your friends, everybody around you; the impact you might have on other people is way more important than what I do out here and what I shoot. If I shoot 80 tomorrow, or I guess Thursday, or 60, it doesn’t matter.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk the last few days about this proposed Premiere Golf League. Can you give us your thoughts on what you’ve scene or heard? I know there was talk, an e-mail from Jay Monahan to the players. Have you had a chance to look at that and your thoughts on that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I saw the e-mail last night before I was going to bed. We’ve heard talks about it for a while. I was only brought up-to-date, I think on January 4th where it was more of — instead of hearing about it for a couple years, okay, I think this might actually happen. I just don’t have enough information on it, I really don’t. I’m always going to speak my mind and tell you what I think, and I think everybody in this room knows that, but I just couldn’t know enough to genuinely have an opinion or know — know enough to speak on it. So I’m kind of — don’t really — I don’t really have much to say on it because I don’t know all the facts.
Q. Is the Tour response how you think it would be in terms of what Jay said to the players?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, I mean, what do you think their response is going to be when something comes along the way? We’ll see. I have no idea. This is all basically a month old for me when I realised that, okay, well, this could be a possibility. I don’t know.
When I know all the details, I’ll be happy to sit in front of you guys and talk to you about it.
Q. Along the same line, I know there’s not one thing that would sell you on leaving the PGA Tour and doing this, but if you had a list of things that you would like to see differently on the Tour, is there anything?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, it would start with pace of play, so that was good. I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about a bunch of things I would change.
I think field size. I think I would shorten the field size a little bit because there are times where it’s very difficult to finish, especially in the fall for those couple tournaments.
Smaller field size, yeah, that’s what I got off the top of my head. That’s actually a really good question. If you give me a day to think about it, I’ll give you an answer.
Q. Would continued access to major championships be the absolute deal breaker?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean, that’s obviously — there’s a lot of things that are going to have to play into it. In golf, that’s what you’re remembered by, major championships. You know, it just depends on how things go. So far, I haven’t even thought about it. I mean, the Olympics is still even new. You know, it not something I grew up wanting to do. Golf wasn’t in the Olympics. It was never an option. So kind of don’t know how I feel about that.
And then, you know, major championships are how you’re remembered. It’s not — I know everybody always gives me grief about not winning enough PGA Tour events or European Tour or not winning enough, but I said this a couple weeks ago, I guarantee most of you in here don’t even know how many regular tour events Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson; you just know how many majors they won. At the end of the day, that’s how you’re remembered by in golf.
It’s a big part for me, and see where it goes. I mean, things are, I guess, developing, even as we speak. When things are more finalised and kind of put in stone and I understand it and I exactly know where things are falling, then I’ll be probably one of the first ones to make a choice or figure out what I’m going to do.
Q. You mentioned the Olympics, and you’ve seen what’s happened with Justin Rose having a Gold Medal. Can you think about that for a second and if you think now if the Olympics are maybe as important as a major to you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Because it’s so new, I don’t — no, I don’t think it is, just because it’s so new. I think it’s an incredible honour. You ask most athletes that are running 100 metres, gymnastics, anything like that, that they wait four years for that.
We have four majors a year. Track, you’ve got indoors and outdoor championships, different things like that, but that’s their big event, the Olympics, and it only comes around every four years. Golf, we’ve got four majors every year, and now we’re going to add the Olympics and you’ve got The Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup, plus the FedExCup for us, and that’s a lot of weeks on the road, a lot of weeks traveling back and forth, a lot of time zones.
You know, it just all kind of depends how you feel, how your body feels, whether — to me, the four majors are definitely more important for me. The FedExCup, too. That’s pretty — that’s a goal of mine. We’ll see where everything else falls.
Q. I understand, Brooks, that you see the majors as more important, but your Asian colleagues on Tour probably don’t, do they, and they think so much more so about trying to win golf in the Olympics. I wonder if in 20 years or so as the Asian players coming on at the moment, if an Olympic medal will mean every bit as much as a major around the world?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Everyone’s allowed to have their own opinion. If it’s more important to them, that’s great. If it’s more important — I’m sure it’s more important to some people that are playing this week. It’s their own opinion.
I mean, I’m sitting up here giving you opinions. I mean, you’re asking me my opinion, so I gave it to you.
Q. No, I’m very grateful to have your opinion. I’m just wondering what — you do speak to your Asian colleagues about what they value more.
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I haven’t spoken to anybody, really, about the Olympics. I’ve spoken to other Olympic athletes. I don’t speak to guys out here on Tour about the Olympics. I don’t. It’s just they are my competitors. I don’t really talk to them. I don’t hang out with them. I don’t ask them, hey, you know, thinking of playing the Olympics in seven months, a year, four years?
Q. I find that quite interesting. Thank you.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Got other things to talk about.
STEVE TODD: Brooks, thanks a lot, thanks for joins us. Good luck this week.
January 28, 2020
King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports