Relaxed Koepka fine-tunes PGA prep at Byron Nelson

Brooks Koepka, who will defend his PGA Championship crown at Bethpage Black, has not played an event since a second place finish behind Tiger Woods at last month’s Masters in Augusta. — AFP pic
Brooks Koepka, who will defend his PGA Championship crown at Bethpage Black, has not played an event since a second place finish behind Tiger Woods at last month’s Masters in Augusta. — AFP pic

LOS ANGELES, May 9 — Brooks Koepka puts the finishing touches on his PGA Championship preparations on Thursday when he tees off in the AT&T Byron Nelson with one eye on next week’s second major of 2019.

Koepka, who will defend his PGA Championship crown at Bethpage Black, has not played an event since a second place finish behind Tiger Woods at last month’s Masters in Augusta.

While many of golf’s elite are taking this week off, Koepka is using the tournament at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas to fine-tune his game after nearly a month off.

The 29-year-old said he is not bothered by his performance this week, but will be looking for signs that the fundamentals of his game are in working order ahead of the PGA Championship.

“You don’t need to play that great,” Koepka said. “I try to get some rhythm. I like building a little bit of rhythm, finding your game, figuring out how to score, to manage your game. It’s just something that has always worked for me.

“I’m not so concerned with the little things, you know, like making bogey from a hundred yards or maybe not getting up and down, going for par-5s, not getting up and down. Mainly just how am I hitting it?”

World number three Koepka will tee off in Texas as a heavy favourite, with the next highest ranked player in the field Patrick Reed, the world number 19, and Marc Leishman, ranked 22.

Koepka meanwhile said he had few regrets about his Augusta near-miss, blaming mistakes on the final round for his loss.

“I thought I played reasonably well. I was pretty happy with how I played. But obviously I made a lot of mistakes. I made two double-bogeys. It’s tough to win if you’re going to do that, especially at Augusta,” he said.

“Second place isn’t much fun but you move on. I think Tiger made it look closer than it actually was with the final score.”

Koepka added that Woods’ return to championship-winning form after missing most of 2016 and 2017 with injury had been welcomed across the sport.

“I think everybody in my generation, my age grew up watching him. That’s pretty much the whole reason we’re all playing. Everybody that’s probably 30, 32 and younger, that’s all we did was watch him and it was exciting,” Koepka said. “I would say 99 per cent of the people that show up when he’s playing are there to see him. So, it’s been good for the sport. It’s good to see him back playing well. It’s good for everybody.” — AFP

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