Sunday 16 December 2018

Koepka hails Irish caddie Elliott after bagging Major

 

Ricky Elliott and Brooks Koepka on the 18th green during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, New York. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Ricky Elliott and Brooks Koepka on the 18th green during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, New York. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Brian Keogh

Brooks Koepka hailed Portrush caddie Ricky Elliott for helping him come back from the dead to become the youngest player to win back-to-back US Opens for 80 years.

Now Elliott's task is to persuade the big Floridian to tee it up in next year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch as a warm-up for The Open in his home town.

After becoming the youngest player since Ralph Guldahl in 1938 to retain the US Open, Koepka was full of praise for Elliott, who picked up his bag five years ago at the US PGA at Oak Hill.

"I love the guy to death," Koepka (28) said after edging out 63-shooter Tommy Fleetwood by a stroke at Shinnecock Hills.

"When we were seven-over (after 34 holes), he told me, 'Get it going, get it back. We're not out of this thing'. He was right.

"And just keep plugging away. There's a lot of golf left. You never know what the conditions are going to do.

"I think he told me it was going to get easier, so just hung in there, and it did on Friday.

Incredible

"But as far as today went, Ricky is honestly one of my best friends. I love the guy to death. He's an incredible caddie."

Portrush-born Elliott won the Irish U-16 Boys in 1993 and the Ulster Boys in 1995 before spending four years on a scholarship at the University of Toledo in Ohio.

He tried his hand on the mini tours in the US but didn't make it, opting to work at Lake Nona as an assistant professional before taking the opportunity to caddie for Dutchman Maarten Lafeber in Europe for two years.

Elliott went on to work for Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open champion, for three years but it was only by chance that he picked up Koepka's bag.

"Brooks was on the Challenge Tour and an unfortunate situation happened with his caddie and he couldn't come to America," recalled Elliott, who claimed $216,000 (€186,000) as his 10pc of the champion's winnings.

"So he needed a caddie at the PGA in 2013 so I went and caddied for him and here was this guy from the Challenge Tour, hitting these rockets. He won three times on the Challenge Tour and said, 'Do you want to keep going? I've only got a European Tour card. Do you want to come to Europe?' So I said, I'll come home for a little bit and work for you."

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