Brooks Koepka gave a timely reminder of his golfing prominence with an eight-under 62 in a World Golf Championship event in Memphis on Thursday night. But he also provided further indication that he is willing to stamp down his rivals off the course as well.
Before the American went out for his first round of the WGC St Jude FedEx Invitational, a magazine article appeared in which Koepka accused Bryson DeChambeau of being “cowardly” when fronting up to Koepka’s caddie, instead of confronting the golfer himself.
The incident happened earlier this season after Koepka had expressed his opinion that his Ryder Cup team-mate was not the quickest on Tour.
“I said to Bryson, ‘If you have an issue, go say it face to face’,” Koepka told Golfweek. “Listen, I don’t have to like you, but I can respect you. I’ve never had a problem with Bryson. I just thought he was slow. Then when he went up to Ricky [Elliott, Koepka’s caddie] and he was like, ‘Tell your man to come find me and say it face to face’.
«Well, I thought that was kind of an oxymoron to go to Ricky. I thought it was kind of cowardly, if I’m honest. But at the same time, if he’s going to say that then I’m going to go up and say, ‘Okay, I’m here’.”
In a frank interview in which Koepka also bashed down the common perception that he is a close friend to Dustin Johnson – «that got blown out of proportion because we worked out in the same gym» – Koepka also stated his view that he is different to his fellow pros.
“Golfers hate confrontation,” Koepka said. “I don’t know what it is, but they’re afraid of it. With a lot of guys, when they fire somebody, they’ll have their manager fire them instead of having the b—- to do it themselves. That’s ridiculous.”
How the locker room will react to the world No 6’s comments is a moot point, although Koepka will not care. Whatever, the emergence of his rant seemed so well timed. Koepka is the defending champion in Memphis, but also the defending champion of next week’s USPGA Championship in Harding Park, where he will attempt to become the first player to win three USPGA strokeplay crowns in history. After missing two cuts in his last three events, this is exactly what Koepka required.
DeChambeau shot a three-under 67, while Rory McIlroy fired a three-over 73. After a torrid opening, the Northern Irishman birdied two of the last three holes.
Meanwhile, anybody who thought Miguel Angel Jimenez would simply turn up to his record-breaking 707th event on the European Tour and accept the plaudits with a celebratory cigar and a comedy stretch, does not know the man.
At 56, Jimenez refused to play the role of ceremonial golfer at the Hero Open and instead put on a stunning display of accuracy at the Forest of Arden to post an eight-under 64 featuring no bogeys.
The Spaniard was applauded on to the 18th green at the Midlands venue by many of his fellow players, while the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Rory McIlroy had recorded video tributes that were played during his round on Sky Sports.
Fittingly, the Tour arranged for Sam Torrance to talk Jimenez at the end of his round, via a link. «I was very proud of the record but I couldn’t have given it to someone better,” Torrance told him. Jimenez is in joint second with countryman Pablo Larrazabal, with yet another Spaniard leading. In stark contrast to Jimenez – who made his first Tour start at the 1983 Benson & Hedges Spanish Open – Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez is in his rookie year.