Thursday 23 January 2020

Koepka eyes more Majors after making return from stem-cell treatment

Brooks Koepka. Photo: Getty Images
Brooks Koepka. Photo: Getty Images

Brian Keogh

World No 1 Brooks Koepka has just one thing on his mind in 2020 and it's not the looming Rory McIlroy, but more Major wins.

"I think we know the four tournaments I'm looking forward to," said the four-time Major champion, who returns from a three-month injury to tee it up with defending champion Shane Lowry and England's Tommy Fleetwood in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship tomorrow.

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"That's pretty obvious. They are what everybody gears their year around. I'm trying to get in the swing of things to start it off, obviously. But the Majors are what everybody is remembered by.

"We can all sit here and know how many Majors Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson won. But I don't know how many tournaments they won.

"You're remembered by your Majors. That's where my focus is, trying to play well there."

Koepka (pictured) had stem-cell treatment on his left knee shortly after losing out to McIlroy in the Tour Championship in Atlanta in August.

He returned in October, but slipped on wet concrete in the CJ Cup in South Korea and "re-tore" his patella tendon - "That's excruciating. It's a lot of pain. It's not fun." - forcing him to withdraw from the Presidents Cup team.

Since suffering the injury, the Floridian (29) has seen world No 2 McIlroy add another win to his CV and reduce the gap at the top of the rankings to just 1.2314 points.

But far from fretting about his ranking, he's simply excited to be able to practise again with the Masters just 85 days away.

"I miss competition," he said. "I'm just excited to hit balls. I have enthusiasm to get out there and go play. Last year, there wasn't much practice. I just couldn't do it with my knee. Thankfully that's in the past now."

As for McIlroy's assertion last week that he feels like he's the best player in the world when he's on his game, Koepka had no issues.

"Rory should believe that," he said. "Everybody playing should think that. If you don't think you're the best player, what's the point?

"Everybody comes here trying to win. That's the goal. If you don't believe you're the best, then there's something wrong with you."

Koepka welcomes the European Tour's introduction of its stringent new pace-of-play policy this week, as does Bryson DeChambeau, who he called out for slow play last year.

Officials will impose stroke penalties on players that incur two bad times in a tournament, rather than a single round, though players can call for a "time extension" for any stroke once in a round.

"Having the, 'Hey, can I get 40 more seconds' because this is a weird shot, the wind came up, or something happened, I think that's great," said 'Mad Scientist' DeChambeau, who has bulked up by 30 lbs over the winter to a long-hitting 225 lbs.

"I think what they did there is awesome."

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