Defending champion Brooks Koepka goes for the three-peat

Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. We are pleased to be joined by two-time defending champion, Brooks Koepka.

Brooks, you’re back with us in good form with some history on the line. Does all this talk of a three-peat, Peter Thomson, etc., do you look at it as a hindrance or helper for you as you go into the championship?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I don’t view it as either one. I’ve already dealt with it at the U.S. Open going into Pebble. I feel like I know how to handle it and I played pretty well there. I just got beat. My game feels like it’s in really, really good shape right now. I like the way I’m hitting it, and feels — putting it really, really well. Every day is a lot more comfortable.

I’m excited. This is a big-boy golf course. Got to hit it straight and put it in the fairway. It’s going to be quite long. I think it kind of plays into my hands.

Q.  What was the best thing you saw in Memphis that you were waiting to see, and what’s the importance of bringing momentum into a big event like this?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Just to be in contention I thought was nice. I hit it well, or a little bit better at 3M, and you know, we went back, we worked on some things over the weekend and it started to click and you could clearly see what was going on. I wasn’t getting on my left side. Now that I’ve got — it was nice to see Pete again, get more work with Claude on what’s going on and then Phil now. I feel great, but I think it was more about getting in contention again and just having those feelings back, which felt good.

Q.  I see you’re playing with Shane Lowry in the first two rounds of the tournament. Just wondering what kind of relationship you have with him; you played with him a little bit, I think, during the lockdown, and what do you make of his game generally?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I like Shane. He’s a funny guy. He’s a character. I enjoy playing with him. I played a lot with him at the Floridian during lockdown. Got to play with him and another buddy, Stephen Grant, maybe six, seven times. It was fun. I enjoyed the competition, trying to battle into something for being off for three months.

Shane is a good player. Drives it really well. He hits a tight little draw. Great short game, and he’s going to be right there come Sunday.

Q.  Given the kind of year you’ve had with three months of knee injury, three months of pandemic, PGA approaching, I don’t want to use the word panic, but was there any kind of impatience in wanting to turn things around, and did your confidence start to take a little bit of a beating?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, you always want to turn it around. Even if it’s a couple holes, you’re trying to look to turn it around.

It gets frustrating. I felt like I was playing a little better. Wasn’t seeing the results, but piece by piece, it was coming. So I knew it was eventually going to be there. But as far as confidence, I got frustrated. I think anybody would. Nobody likes playing bad.

But at the same time, I knew it was only a couple swings away. Once I got the feeling, I’d be off and running, and here we are.

Q.  What’s the one thing Pete brought to you?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Pete? Just stay in the ground. I’ve done the same four things with Claude for, I don’t know how long we’ve been together, seven years, and Pete’s the same thing. Pete tells me two things. You know, sometimes it’s just a different delivery between Claude and Pete, and all it takes it a little bit of — we saw some information on one of the body tracks or whatever where it shows your weight, I forget what it was. It was pretty obvious.

So once I saw that, you know, everything made sense with what Claude was saying and Pete, and it just clicked.

Q.  Can you give us your impressions of the rough, and I guess how deep rough needs to be to be significant if you have a short iron or a wedge for an approach?

BROOKS KOEPKA: It all kind of depends. The rough out here is pretty thick. You can get some pretty juicy lies and not advance it very far. But it all depends. Is it going to be wet? I think it will be, especially in the mornings, so it could be quite tough to control your distance, spin, things like that.

But I don’t think it’s overly bad right now. Come Sunday, might be different. Might grow two inches, who knows, an inch. Anything could make a big difference. I don’t think it’s bad, but it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen.

Q.  Given the fact that there aren’t any galleries these days, there’s not going to be any galleries this week, are you going to have to kind of maybe convince yourself that this is a major and a major atmosphere, or does that sort of thing really matter?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, it’s pretty obvious it’s a major when you pull in. Yeah, I don’t know how else to answer that. It’s pretty obvious it’s a major. It’s a big boy golf course. Tough place. Tough setup. I mean, I know it, so that’s all that matters.

Q.  When you want to hit driver especially hard, do you have to think of an aggressive thought?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, just hit it hard. That’s the only thought. I don’t think — my mind goes blank. I kind of, I guess, blackout a little bit sometimes while we’re out there. I don’t think of any swing thoughts. Don’t think of anything.

I don’t do that in practice while we’re at home but out here, just go out and hit the ball. Try to — whatever shape you’re trying to hit, just see it and go with it and swing it.

Q.  You always said in majors past that you mark these four tournaments on the calendar in terms of peaking for these events. What’s the challenge been like for this year peaking for these events, given the pandemic as well as your knee?

BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s just been a lot of patience. I had to — a lot of sitting around and waiting and doing rehab, and just trying to make sure we’re ready for this week. Yeah, I mean obviously things didn’t get off to a good start this whole year; basically from Korea till 3M wasn’t the start or play I was looking for.

But at the same time, I felt like I was progressing. So sometimes the results are a little bit slower than what I would like. I expect so much of myself, almost too much sometimes, and that can be annoying.

But at the same time, you’ve just got to — I knew this week was a couple weeks away, so I had no other option other than to find it.

Q.  I have two questions. One is as much of a sports fan as I know you are, do you enjoy — with regard to the No. 1 ranking, it kind of bouncing around a little bit? You had it for a stretch; Rory; Jon had it for a few minutes and now J.T. has it. How much do you enjoy having that in the balance, and do you burn to have it back?

BROOKS KOEPKA: That’s the whole goal. The goal is to be the best player. If you’re not trying to do that, then I don’t know what you’re doing. I’m not out here to just try to compete and have a good time. I’m out here to win.

You know, winning means being the best and being No. 1, so that’s the goal. And I enjoy it. I enjoy — right now, you’ve got J.T., Jon, Justin, myself, DJ all right there. So it makes it fun. It’s exciting. As a fan, I’m sure it’s exciting.

Q.  As a follow-up, when you come here or any tournament, do you walk into this place feeling like you’re the best player on the planet and that you’re the guy to beat?

BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I feel very confident in myself. I don’t know — I think when you start saying it like that, I think you’re putting expectations. I don’t put any expectations on myself. Just go out and go play golf exactly like I know how, and if I do that, then yeah, I probably should win.

Q.  You talk about the whole goal of being No. 1; that’s the whole idea of being out here. You held that post longer than anyone last year. What’s the sense of accomplishment in that?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, that’s a big accomplishment. That’s the goal every time you set the goals for the year, to be the best player in the world. I felt like I got unlucky with the knee and then wasn’t swinging it right because of my knee. It happens.

But also at the same time, it can make you a little hungry to go out and prove yourself, and that’s where I’m at right now.

Q.  You obviously seemed to enjoy majors. It’s been over a year since we’ve competed in a major. That’s the longest stretch since the 1940s. What does it mean to be able to compete in a major again?

BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s fun. I love it. I love the fact that it’s probably the toughest test of golf you’re going to play all year with — setup-wise and then mentally it’s exhausting.

I enjoy when it gets tough. I enjoy when things get complicated. You can really — there’s always disaster lurking, I think it something I enjoy, where every shot really means something. Every shot is so important and you can’t — you can’t lose focus on one and I think that’s something I’m really proud of myself that I can always just hang in there mentally and hit the shot that I need to hit at the right time, and don’t let off the gas pedal.

Q.  Last year at Bethpage, you said that these were the easiest tournaments to win. I don’t know that you put a number on how many guys you had to beat; if you still feel that way; and how many guys do you have to beat this week?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I still feel that way. I think I said it last year. The way the golf course sets up eliminates pretty much half the guys, and then from there, you know, half of those guys probably won’t play well, I think is what I said. Then from there, I feel like mentally I can beat them, the other half, so you’ve probably got ten guys. That’s the way I see it. If I can do what I’m supposed to, then yeah, I should.

I think that’s why I’ve played so well is I break things down very easily. I think for some reason, people make golf a lot more complicated than it should be. Worried about where shots go, results, you know, putting more emphasis on this week or the major weeks, when to me, it almost seems the most relaxing week of the year. I feel like Monday to Wednesday, conserving energy mentally, I’ve got a good routine, nine holes pretty much every day or less, and I leave the golf course feeling pretty refreshed, and then by Sunday, I’m mentally drained.

I think it’s more mentally exhausting where things — where things will take it out of you mentally before physically with a major. I think that’s one of the strengths of my game.

Q.  What’s the one thing that you have to do well this week?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Drive the ball well. If you put the ball in the fairway out here, you’re going to do — there’s a lot of long irons into these par 4s, and like today, I think I hit — played nine holes and hit three long irons in the back nine in the flags and obviously it’s a little cooler, a little windy. But still at the same time in you’re in that rough, there’s no chance you’re hitting 4- or 5-iron into these greens. You have to drive it well and put it into the fairway. A lot of right-to-left holes, too, especially on the back.

Q.  Just talking about the length and adjusting to the weather, is that something you’ll do going on the launch monitor, or is that a feel thing with you and Ricky, getting a sense of the difference in how far the ball is going here?

BROOKS KOEPKA: No. I’m not going to be a scientist and go figure it out on TrackMan. I’ll do it out myself. Me and Ricky have a pretty good idea how far the ball flies in this weather. Played golf for probably 25 years now, so I know how far it goes when it’s a little cold. From there, it’s just slight adjustments. I feel like we’ve got it dialed in.

That’s kind of why I wanted to play in the morning. Usually you do the same routine as tomorrow, tee off the same time I tee off on Thursday, and play one late, one early, just to get a feel for how different the course can play, how the ball is flying and things like that.

(FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports)


Q&A with Tiger Woods – Press Conference at Harding Park Golf Club

Welcome everybody to the 2020 PGA Championship here at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco. We’re pleased to be joined by four-time champion Tiger Woods.

Welcome, Tiger. This is your 21st PGA Championship, and you have a little bit of history at this golf course, winning in 2005, of course, and going undefeated in The Presidents Cup. Is it safe to say you have a good vibe with the course but also golf in northern California back to your college days?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I mean, I played it before the redo. They have come a long way since then, made it a championship site. I was fortunate enough to beat John in a playoff and then had a great Presidents Cup under Captain Freddie. This brings back great memories of coming up here playing, whether it’s here at Harding or SF Club, Olympic or Lake Merced. We used to come up here and do qualifiers all the time.

Q.  Four rounds since the restart. How do you feel coming in here?

TIGER WOODS: I feel good. Obviously I haven’t played much competitively, but I’ve been playing a lot at home. So I’ve been getting plenty of reps that way. Just trying to get my way back into this part of the season. This is what I’ve been gearing up for. We’ve got a lot of big events starting from here, so looking forward to it. This is going to be a fun test for all of us. The rough is up. Fairways are much more narrow than they were here in 2009. Don’t ask me for the routing because I’m still getting a little confused on the routing. Still trying to learn that part.

Q.  So many of your major championship wins were defined by just the energy of the crowd. Can you just talk about how weird it’s going to be playing a major without a crowd and how it will impact you coming down the stretch given that you’re someone who feeds off of that crowd energy?

TIGER WOODS: Well, that’s an unknown. I don’t know if anyone in our generation has ever played without fans in a major championship. It’s going to be very different. But it’s still a major championship. It’s still the best players in the world. We all understand that going into it, so there’s going to be plenty of energy from the competitive side.

But as far as the energy outside the ropes, that is an unknown. And hopefully I can put myself in a position where I can be in that position where I can feel what it feels like to have no fans and also coming down the stretch with a chance to win.

Q.  A lot different feeling going into the PGA this year compared to after winning the Masters last year. Can you sort of compare and contrast? I mean, is your game actually maybe in better shape now than it would have been then after all you went through winning the Masters?

TIGER WOODS: Well, after I won the Masters, it was a bit of a whirlwind. We got a chance to go to the White House, my family, and meet with our President. I celebrated winning the Masters for quite some time.

Came to Bethpage and played awful, and felt like, what, Brooks beat me by like 30 shots in two days. My game is better than it was going into that PGA and hopefully I can put it together this week.

Q.  You said last year that you were working on a book. I understand you’re working with the same writer who helped Andre Agassi and Phil Knight with their books. What’s the process like for you, and do you take any inspiration from what Michael Jordan did in “The Last Dance”?

TIGER WOODS: Well, it’s been insightful and one that I’ve enjoyed the process of looking back on some of the stories and been a lot of fun.

Q.  You talked about the crowd and the noise. When you played here in 2005, you described it as one ear was half deaf as you went back to the tee for the playoff. It was “electric” was I think the word you used. The contrast of no fans here at a public course where you’ve played two times and it’s been very loud; and my second question is just the Sandy Tatum statue and what you think of his legacy given your Stanford ties?

TIGER WOODS: Yeah, I knew Sandy before I even entered college because I played a U.S. Junior here up at Lake Merced when I was 14. Got a chance to meet Sandy then and knew the process when I was in college of what he was trying to do here. He is the one who single-handedly turned this golf course into what it is now.

What’s the other part of your question?

Q.  The noise.

TIGER WOODS: Well, considering that, one, it was a team event, where it was very bipartisan. It’s us against the Internationals, and you couldn’t have put two of the more, I guess, crowd-drawing people together in a playoff, myself and John Daly. So it was loud. The people were into it. It was a lot of fun. I still look back on it. I just didn’t want it to end the way it ended in that playoff; I think the way we were playing, we should have continued. It was just an unfortunate way to end it.

Q.  Obviously the weather forecast for this week, temperatures are cool. How does that impact you in terms of swing preparations and so forth, and just dealing with that in general versus normal weather?

TIGER WOODS: I think that for me when it’s cooler like this, it’s just make sure that my core stays warm, layering up properly. I know I won’t have the same range of motion as I would back home in Florida where it’s 95 every day. That’s just the way it is.

Talking to some of the guys yesterday, they were laughing at their TrackMan numbers already. They don’t have the swing speed or ball speed they did last week. It’s just the way it is. It’s going to be playing longer. It’s heavy air whether the wind blows or not, but it’s still going to be heavy. The ball doesn’t fly very far here. I’ve known that from all the years and times I’ve had to qualify up in this area. It’s always 20 degrees cooler here than it is down there in Palo Alto. We knew that coming in. I think the weather forecast is supposed to be like this all week: Marine layer, cool, windy, and we are all going to have to deal with it.

Q.  If you are concerned, what are you most concerned about your form coming into Thursday, and what are you happiest about heading into Thursday?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I think that more than anything, it’s just competitively, I haven’t played that much, but I am — the results that I’ve seen at home, very enthusiastic about some of the changes I’ve made and so that’s been positive.

Keep building. Keep getting ready and be ready come Thursday.

Q.  What changes have you made?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I’m not going to tell you that.

Q.  Okay, I took a shot.

TIGER WOODS: (Laughing.)

Q.  Every week right now there seems to be a new record on sports betting in golf. There’s more and more money going in every week. Do you ever hear stories from people about betting on you, and is it weird there’s this kind of money being thrown around now legally?

TIGER WOODS: Yes, the word you put up at the very end is different, “legally.” Sports betting has always been around. It’s been around, I remember players and coaches placing bets on players, whether the matchups they had or not.

But now, you can do it instantaneous and shot-for-shot. It’s very different. But that’s just the way the world has changed, and it’s more accepting now.

Q.  Throughout your career, you’ve made a science of peaking for the four majors every single year. Given how different this year has been, have you changed anything about how you’ve tried to build up and prepare for this one major this season?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I’ve been trying to prepare for the three. You know, trying to figure out my schedule and training programs and playing prep and the things I need to work on for each major venue. It’s just in a different calendar order and different time of year.

But this is a big run for us coming up here. I’ve been gearing up for this, and looking forward to the challenges of not only this week, but obviously the Playoffs and a U.S. Open and then the Masters.

Q.  Some players have talked about, I think Rory has mentioned it, that it’s been sometimes hard to keep your focus with no crowds around when you’re so used to having a different environment at your tournaments, especially in majors. Have you found that to be the case, and do you maybe have to keep reminding yourself this week that this is the PGA Championship; it’s a major and it’s not just the Memorial or another Tour event?

TIGER WOODS: Well, Rory has more experience than I do in that regard because he’s played more often in this part of the season. I’ve only played one time. And those four days at Muirfield was a bit different. It reminded me of sometimes on the weekend, you’d tee off Saturday morning and you’d just barely make the cut and you’re first off and there’s no one out there, but generally by the time you make the back nine, there’s thousands of people out there on the golf course waiting for the leaders to tee off. But that never happened. So that’s the new world we live in. We just have to get used to it.

As far as the focus part of it, I haven’t had a problem with that. Those four rounds, I was pretty into it. It’s different than most of the times when you go from green-to-tee, people yelling or trying to touch you. That part is different.

As far as energy while I’m competing and playing, no, that’s the same. I’m pretty intense when I play and pretty into what I’m doing.

Q.  Just two-part thing. What did you get out of those four rounds positive at Memorial? What kinds of things did you take back to Florida out of that?

TIGER WOODS: More than anything, I had not had the competitive flow. I’ve been competing at home and we’ve been playing for a few dollars here and there at home, but that’s so different than it is out here playing competitively in a tournament environment.

I had not played since, what, L.A., so it was a long time for me, and making sure that I felt the feel of the round and getting my feels organized early, and I got off to just a beautiful start. I birdied two of the first three. So I got into the flow of competing very quickly.

It didn’t help that the wind howled on my first day back and then Sunday it was brutally hard. Being patient is one of the things that I was real proud of out there, you know, fighting hard as I did to make the cut. I birdied two of the last three holes and made a huge par putt on nine. Those are all positive things I look back on. I didn’t quite feel my best on Friday and it showed, and the weekend was tough.

Q.  At a major championship week, when you look back at the Masters in 2019, did you know that week; is there a feel you have that week before, like, I got it, that kind of thing, and you know, how difficult might that be to manufacture this week with so much time in between playing?

TIGER WOODS: Well, there’s probably only been, what, two — maybe three times where I knew that all I had to do was keep my heartbeat going and I was going to win the tournament. ’97, I felt pretty good at Augusta and then Pebble Beach in 2000, and then obviously at St. Andrews the same year.

My game was clicking on all cylinders for maybe the week prior. The week of it got a little bit better and just had to maintain it the rest of the week. Those were rare exceptions. It hasn’t happened to me that often in my career, non-major or major, but those three weeks in particular, I just felt really good and had control of every single shot shape, distance, feels around the greens, putter. I had everything rolling.

Q.  Back in 2000, I don’t know if you said it in jest or not, you said one of your biggest regrets was leaving Stanford a year early, and obviously you have a lot of memories and nostalgia in the San Francisco Bay area, but what is it that makes this region so special to you personally?

TIGER WOODS: Well, I lived up here for two years. It’s the first time I ever lived away from home. And coming up here to Palo Alto and being in that environment, being around so many intellectually curious people and unbelievable athletes, and we’re all in the same bubble together trying to figure this all out for the first time, it was a very unique experience and one that I thoroughly miss.

And then coming up here, all the qualifiers that we had to play up here, whether it’s here at Harding or it’s Lake Merced or SF or Olympic, those were some great qualifying rounds. Coach would make us play in all different types of weather; if it was raining or not, go qualify and we had to qualify in our sport.

Those were great memories and great times, and ones that I thoroughly miss.

Q.  You mentioned how the course is different from when you played previously. Can you give us your impressions? It seems like not a typical major setup, old school with the trees and maybe not as long as some courses?

TIGER WOODS: It’s not as long. It’s a par-70; it’s not as long numbers-wise, but the ball never goes very far here. It plays very long, even though it’s short on numbers.

This golf course in particular, the big holes are big and the shorter holes are small. It can be misleading. They have; pinched in the fairways a little bit and the rough is thick; it’s lush. With this marine layer here and the way it’s going to be the rest of the week, the rough is only going to get thicker, so it’s going to put a premium on getting the ball in play.

I’m still a bit surprised that the surrounds are not as fast as they are and they’re not cut short and tight, but they are grainy. Into-the-grain shots, where the balls are popping in and rolling out. Downgrain you can spin pretty easily and you can spin it either way. It’s going to be a test, with the overhang of these cypress trees and the ball — there may be a couple lost balls here; cut a corner and ball hangs up there, that could happen very easily here and has happened and I’m sure will this week as well.

Q.  Have you had a ball in a tree here?

TIGER WOODS: Well, not here.

Q.  Any memorable moments?

TIGER WOODS: I’ve had a few at Lake Merced. That’s one of the tightest golf courses and most claustrophobic places that I’ve ever played. Yeah, I’ve lost a few there.

Q.  What chances do you give yourself this week? Can you win this week?

TIGER WOODS: Of course. (Smiling.)

(FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports)

PGA Tour

PGA of America: Official Statement Released Regarding 2020 PGA Championship

The PGA of America released an official statement on Tuesday evening announcing that the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park will be rescheduled for a later date yet to be determined due to growing concerns of the Coronavirus outbreak.

PGA of America: PGA championship to be postponed to a later date amid Coronavirus concerns:

“Throughout our evaluation process, we have been committed to following the guidance of public health authorities and given the coronavirus shelter-in-place order in effect in San Francisco, postponement is the best decision for all involved,” said PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh.

“This is a reflection of a thoughtful process,” Waugh added. “We are and have been working in concert with Commissioner Jay Monahan and our partners and friends at the PGA TOUR to find an alternative date that works for all. We are all very hopeful for a great outcome.

“We are also in dialogue with Mayor Breed and her team at the City of San Francisco and look forward to hopefully bringing the 2020 PGA Championship to TPC Harding Park at a date this summer when it is once again safe and responsible to do so.”

PGA of America Communications

March 17, 2020

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

Team USA

PGA Tour: Brooks Koepka Addresses the Media at the PGA Championship Media Conference

PGA Tour: 2019 PGA Championship winner Brooks Koepka speaks with the media at the annual PGA Championship Media Conference in San Francisco ahead of the 2020 edition taking place at Harding Park

PGA Tour: Brooks Koepka speaks to the media about 2020 PGA Championship

JULIUS MASON: Ladies and gentlemen, the countdown has really officially begun. It’s 84 days until the second major of the year comes upon Harding Park. We are really excited to have our defending champion, Brooks Koepka with us today, and I guess over the next 15 minutes we’re going to go ahead and open the floor to you to ask as many questions as like.

Brooks it’s been over — we have to go back to the ’20s when Walter Hagen won four of these championships in a row. What’s your mind-set going into this PGA Championship when you could come close to history winning three of these things in a row?

BROOKS KOEPKA: It would be incredible. Obviously you look at Walter Hagen is a name everybody knows, every golf fan knows. To even have a chance to put my name with his would be incredible and it would be super special.

Coming back, obviously two-time defending, it’s a different feeling, and one you want to win this year for sure. It’s something I’m looking forward to and can’t wait to get the year started.

Q. Given the hat that you’re wearing, I would imagine the perfect scenario would be to win this thing, look over to the camera and hold up a 2 and a 4?
BROOKS KOEPKA: That would be pretty cool. It would be neat. It would be special. It really would with everything that’s gone on, it’s obviously very sad, but no better way to honor him.

Q. How is your knee? How is your health?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s a lot stronger. It’s stable. It feels good. Every once in a while, last Monday was probably — didn’t feel very good but that’s why, you know, I have got my PT with me on the road taking care of everything and making sure that my knee is in the right spot. My knee is so much better. It’s really progressed a lot in the last month and a half.

Q. How will you prepare with the terrain, getting physically ready for the tournament?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’ll be physically ready. I’ve got plenty of time. What did you say, Julius, 84 days? I’ll be fine. It’s something I’m not worried about. It is walking, so it’s not too bad. But at the same time, downhill is a little bit of a struggle but other than that, everything else is good.

Q. No. 1 in the world for a bit now. How has life changed for you since, if at all?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Obviously being No. 1 is nice, but you get comfortable with it and you know, you’re just trying to make sure you play good. It’s as simple as. Not there right now, but I had three months off, so just trying to find rhythm and get back into the swing of things and really kind of get used to being on Tour again.

Q. I know it’s been a few years, but can you share with us anything that sticks out from playing Harding Park before?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s a big boy golf course. You have to be able to hit it long. It’s very difficult. It’s a major championship golf course. You know that. You look at — this finish will be interesting. I think it will be a great finish. You look at the back nine there, starting on about 13, 14, it gets really interesting. You’re going to see a lot of — it will be exciting, especially if it’s close on Sunday. I think those holes let up for quite a few disasters and some good golf.

Q. Can you describe what it’s like, you have a target on your back now as the defending champion and the field is so competitive. When you’re the one that people are pointing toward, how does that change the way you play, or does, it when you know that people are gunning for you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I like that. Everybody wants to be in that spot. There’s nothing wrong with it. Obviously they are all doing that because you did something good and that’s what you want. Just keep plugging away. It’s not a normal event, but you know, it’s a major; you’re hyped up and you’re pumped to play and ready to go, just get out there and go do what you’re supposed to do.

Q. Last year, the U.S. Opens you were so dominant, and then the Tiger one, the previous PGA Championship, last year, you were in complete control, had a little bit of a hiccup but were able to close the deal. What did you learn about going through that stretch and being able to hold on to win?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It was nice. That’s why you play good the early days so you’ve got a chance. I really didn’t feel like I made any mistakes. It’s a hard golf course, especially when it’s blowing 25, 30 miles an hour in the wind. Played good and didn’t do much wrong but you can make some bogeys pretty quick on that golf course.

It’s been fun to battle it out with him the last few years.

Koepka Talks TPC Harding Park

Q. You called it a “big boy golf course,” Harding, with the trees, and accuracy matters; there’s a distinct San Francisco style of golf. You played in The Open at Olympic as an amateur, as well. What did you learn about San Francisco golf in those tournaments?
BROOKS KOEPKA: You know the rough is going to be thick. You know what you’re going to get. You have to be able to hit it far and you have to be able to hit it straight. There’s been a precedent on making sure accuracy is big, and you know that when you come out here.

You have to find the fairways if you event want to have a chance. If you don’t hit the fairways, you’re going to be struggling to make pars. You’re not going to make any birdies, but it’s a golf course that it’s set up for a major championship like this.

Q. Have you been back to Harding since the Match Play?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, I haven’t been back. 2015 was the last time I was back. Back out here, might pop up for a day and maybe go play before the event but that’s about it.

Q. Had you heard how narrow the fairways are?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’m sure they are.

Q. We’re going to see you hit some balls to McCovey Cove. What are you going to be using? A sand wedge? Your putter?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’ll probably use as much club as I can. I’d love to hit anything. It doesn’t matter. It would be cool to hit one in McCovey Cove. I don’t know. We’ll figure it out when we get down there.

Q. How was the Bart ride with the trophy?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It was fun. I think everybody when I was on Bart was like, what is going on here. Brought like six, seven camera guys, everybody looking. It was fun. We had a good time.

Q. What did you think about the recent distance report?
BROOKS KOEPKA: The long hitters are going to be long hitters whether you roll the ball back or not, it doesn’t matter. I always use the example: Jack Nicklaus drove the green on 18 at St. Andrews and that was, what, 30, 40 years ago and it’s tough to do that now. I can’t even do that now.

It doesn’t matter. Look, kind of speaking out of both sides of their mouth. They want to make it tougher, but at the same time, we want to grow the game and get people involved. So if you’re going to make it tougher, not many people are going to want to play.

Q. Does Harding Park allow you to play your type of game? Does it put a different club in your hand from the fact that it is a narrower course and it’s got trees on each side of the fairway? Do you have to be smart about the way you attack?
BROOKS KOEPKA: You just have to take what the hole gives you. It doesn’t matter. There’s no real — my style of golf, nothing like that. You just try to go out there and figure out what the hole gives you and depending where the pin is and what the miss is, there’s about 30 things that can come into play and you just have to take what it will let you do.

Q. Do you have an idea — a few months out, what type of a game plan you may have for this type of a golf course?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It all kind of depends. You get a wind direction or the weather report comes in, whatever. It can change to anything in an instant. Doesn’t matter. Holes playing downwind now might play into the wind when we’re here. You just have got to see, kind of wait and figure out what the best opportunities are.

Q. How much does it matter, if at all, that this is on a public course? I know Bethpage last year, there haven’t been very many, Torrey Pines I guess, but truly municipal courses to host an event of this magnitude?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s incredible. Obviously anybody can go out and go play, which makes it unique. Makes it cool. So people really understand where we’ve been. If we have hit in a certain — behind a tree or hit it left on this hole or hit it right on that hole, the average golfer out there knows exactly what we’re dealing with. It brings people a little bit closer to us.

Q. Does it send an important message, battling the elitism?
BROOKS KOEPKA: For sure, definitely had that feeling for years and years and years. It’s nice to bring it to a public place and nice to bring it to somewhere where, you know, it’s not that exclusivity that’s been, I guess, tagged with golf for a long time.

Q. How important is it for you to try to get back to No. 1?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I’ve just got to play good golf, man. That’s all I’ve got to do. If I play good golf, everything should take care of itself. Just trying to feel a little bit of a rhythm, build up on it. I’ve only been hitting golf balls for a month and a half now. Everything should be pretty close.

Q. How did you handle the play off, not being able to play.
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, it was a grind. It was the second we got back from Korea. I was in rehab right away, so I didn’t really have much time to think about anything else other than just go attack the knee and make it strong and make it back to what it was. That was the only way possible.

So I really haven’t had much time to think about anything else other than trying to get back out here and trying to be able to play again.

Q. What are your thoughts on playing this championship in a world-class city like San Francisco? It puts the PGA Tour and so many great players in this area.
BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s fun. I’ve spent a bunch of time out here in San Francisco when I was going through college and just getting done. Spent a much of time with a family out here in Pleasanton. It was kind of a second home there for a little bit. It’s fun. It’s fun to get back here and see everything.

Obviously it will be a fun week with the fans here. I think it will be exciting and hopefully they are looking forward to it.

Q. Has anyone in this area helped influence your game as a golfer teaching-wise?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No. I haven’t got any lessons out here. It’s kind of far for me to travel from Florida, so I wasn’t out here getting much lessons. But no, nobody out here.

Q. Do you have relatives in Pleasanton?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No. They were family friends. They were out there. So go play golf with them. One of them, Noah, is actually playing golf at the University of Washington. Be cool to see them. Hopefully they will be out.

Q. You mentioned Walter Hagen and that was so long ago in Match Play. Will you embrace that trying to go three in a row in stroke play, something that’s never been done in this championship, or just I want to play the golf tournament?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I just want to play good golf, man. It’s simple. You start thinking about all the things that could happen, that’s when, you know, I guess nerve, everything else kind of creeps in. Just stay in the moment and keep plugging along.

Q. When you win a major, how does that change your life?
BROOKS KOEPKA: A major? I mean, it puts you in a different category than everybody else. You can win as many tour events as you want, but at the end of the day, you’re remembered by how many majors you’ve won. You look at it, and I’ve said it before, Arnie, Jack, Tom Watson, Gary Player, all these guys, I can’t tell you how many PGA Tour events they won, but I promise you everybody knows how many majors they won.

Q. But when you go to 7-11, Wal-Mart, whatever, at one point it’s like, oh, there’s Brooks Koepka and then you win a major, oh, snap, expletive, it’s Brooks Koepka. Is it like that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It’s definitely a little bit different. Get noticed a lot more. Things like that, it definitely changes your life a little bit.

I’m still the same me, so it doesn’t matter. I’m still just a regular guy just like anybody else.

Q. Have you been to a baseball game here? Did you play baseball growing up?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I did. Actually I went on a date with Jena before were dating here, actually. Buster gave me tickets. I knew Buster from Florida State. He helped us out with tickets and we were here in 2015.

Q. So you didn’t go for the perfect game?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, I wasn’t. I didn’t make it out. I wasn’t going to be getting free tickets from anybody at that point. (Laughter).

Q. Have you looked into the Premiere Golf League?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, everybody’s pretty much heard about it, looking at things.

Q. What do you think?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, there is a possibility. Obviously they have got financial backing. So it’s become more and more real, especially with everything that’s developing. They are giving us information. But at the same time, we’ve got to figure out what’s best for us. We have no idea. So when we make that determination, we’ll let everybody know.

Q. Both you and Rory have been dismissive of the rivalry labeled between you two, but has him overtaking you at world No. 1 changed your mind-set in regard to your ebb and flow with him?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Not really. I just don’t — we haven’t competed going into a major coming down the stretch. I think the only time we really competed with each other was WGC.

So other than that, we haven’t been in contention in the same tournaments coming down the stretch, so it’s hard to say there’s a rivalry. Even people talk about the Phil and Tiger rivalry, it was kind of one-sided there for a long time, too. I just don’t see rivalries in golf, I really don’t.

Q. You’ve obviously won this twice and each major seems to have its own personality, and Augusta with the greens, U.S. Open with the rough, British Open with the wind. What in your mind is the signature sort of element of a PGA Championship?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think the fact that they can switch it up and make it different. I like the fact that you can play this in long rough, big tall rough. You can play it with not that much rough and make it difficult.

You look at like Bellerive two years ago, that was one of the funner courses to play, and then you look at it last year was probably one of the most difficult golf courses you’re going to play in the entire world. The way that they can vary it and make it different, and make it enjoyable for the fans.

Q. What was different about Bellerive?
BROOKS KOEPKA: I think, too, there’s a lot of — it’s a sporting town. St. Louis is a good sporting town. It was fun to be there. In fact, I just remember how hot it was. I must have lost like ten pounds that week.

Q. Can you speak to the talent on the PGA Tour right now? It seems like it’s in a great spot right now with so many international and American players. Just how hard is it to win on this tour right now?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it’s obviously very difficult. So many guys, you go down the line, you’ve got Rory, J.T., Dustin. I could name 15 names, rattle them off. I think that’s why you’re not going to see — guys are not going to win 30, 40 times like they have years and years ago just for the fact of it’s not going to be possible. There’s too much competition.

Q. What do you remember about the baseball game you saw here, if you flash back to the U.S. Open at Olympic and the match play at Harding and to now think you’re coming back to San Francisco as No. 1 or close to No. 1. Pretty striking contrast to where your career was.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it’s different. That might have been my first match play, too. I could be wrong. It might have been my first one. It’s crazy to look how far I’ve come and how things have changed over the last, you know, four or five years.

Q. Any memories from that baseball game here?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Had a good day. I guess it worked out for me.

Q. Will you have a chance to play Harding several times before the PGA Championship?
BROOKS KOEPKA: We’ll see. It kind of depends. I remember a little bit of it, but also at the same time depends how much off-time we get and if I can if I’m over here, obviously going to spend quite a bit of time in San Diego with my guy and probably can, if I can pop up and the weather looks good, I’ll pop up for a day and play.

San Francisco, California

February 17, 2020

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports