Tuesday 25 September 2018

Koepka on a roll after 'escaping the cage'

With three Major wins in 14 months, Koepka described his last year as a “roller coaster”. Image: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
With three Major wins in 14 months, Koepka described his last year as a “roller coaster”. Image: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

Brian Keogh

Rory McIlroy might be sitting out the first FedEx Cup Playoff event to address issues in his game but Brooks Koepka is gunning to add another win to his stellar bid for Player of the Year honours at The Northern Trust in New Jersey.

With two Majors to his credit this year, the US Open and PGA champion could be forgiven for lacking in motivation even if there are weekly $9 million purses and a juicy $10 million bonus still up for grabs for the winner of the FedEx Cup.

Like Tiger Woods, whose desire to take advantage of a second chance has fuelled his incredible comeback this year, Koepka's hunger knows no bounds after his career-threatening wrist injury left him depressed and on the sofa for four months earlier this season.

"I think I wanted to be out here so bad that when I did get out here, it was like an animal in a cage," Koepka said. "Then you open that cage and they can't wait to get out. I literally could not wait to get out and just hit balls at Zurich on the range. Just feel the excitement... alright I am finally in that atmosphere, I'm inside the ropes (with) the competition I miss so much.

"There is absolutely no competition sitting on the couch. The only thing I could compete at was who could eat the most and I was doing a really good job at that."

Koepka lies third in the FedEx Cup standings behind pal Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas and he's determined to improve on his dismal record in the Playoffs - one top 10 from 10 starts since 2015 - by repeating his Major championship preparations for the last four weeks of the season. "I know it's not very good," he said of his record. "I didn't need anybody to tell me. I just haven't showed up. I don't know if that's being a little tired, a little lazy, not putting the emphasis and the preparation on the FedEx Cup that I should have been, or maybe just trying a little too hard."

With three Major wins in 14 months, Koepka described his last year as a "roller coaster" but while Tiger Woods has anointed him the obvious candidate for the PGA Tour's Player of the Year award, Koepka and others do not believe it's a "done deal".

"The Majors, there's obviously a lot of weight with those but I don't see it as being a lock with Dustin, Justin (Thomas) and Bubba (Watson) all winning three times," he said. "If they go pop and win the FedEx Cup, that's a pretty damn good argument to have right there."

Perform

With 122 of the top 125 in the FedEx Cup standings teeing it up this week, including 125th-ranked Seamus Power, just the top 100 will advance to next week's Dell Technologies Championship.

Power needs a top 23 finish at worst to make it to TPC Boston but other players are also looking to perform with the Ryder Cup just over a month away.

With the top eight Americans already decided, Woods and Phil Mickelson are the favourites for two of Jim Furyk's four picks which leaves Bryson DeChambeau, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner, Tony Finau, Xander Schauffele, Zach Johnson and even Wyndham Championship winner Brandt Snedeker looking to impress.

As for the Europeans, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Russell Knox, Eddie Pepperell, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are all outside the top eight with just two weeks to go before the wild cards are decided. Poulter, Casey, Cabrera-Bello and Knox are all in action at Ridgewood Country Club this week.

But there's also huge Ryder Cup interest in the D+D REAL Czech Masters in Prague where the in-form Belgian Thomas Pieters will play alongside Ryder Cup vice-captain Pádraig Harrington for the opening two days looking to play his way into the wild-card reckoning.

"There's a lot of discussion about picks at the moment," Harrington said. "It's quite active and there are a good few names in the hat. It's tough and there's still two more weeks to go and I am sure there will be some changes."

Harrington is joined at Albatross Golf Resort by fellow vice-captain Lee Westwood as well as Paul McBride and Gavin Moynihan, two former Ireland team-mates who played their golf at The Island but are now focusing on the Challenge Tour.

Czech Masters,

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 10.0am

The Northern Trust,

Live, Sky Sports Golf, 5.0pm

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