Brooks Koepka Q&A: A lot has changed since last trip to Abu Dhabi five years ago
Three-time major champion and world No 2 says he has gained plenty of experience since missing cut in 2014, as he also targets US Masters
World No 2 Brooks Koepka returns this month to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. He missed the cut on his only other appearance, in 2014, but arrives in the capital having won his second and third majors last year, and climbed to top spot in the global rankings.
He spoke to The National ahead of the January 16-19 event.
You haven’t played Abu Dhabi since 2014. What has convinced you to return to the event, and what are your thoughts upon coming back to the National Course?
I have been eager to include the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in my schedule for the last couple of seasons and, this year, it really fits in perfect. It has a great reputation on the tour among the guys of being an excellent event, and its an amazing destination to visit, so I'm very excited to be returning in January.
I cannot wait to play the National Course again and see how I handle it this time round. Obviously I have played a lot of golf and gained a lot of experience since I was last in Abu Dhabi five years ago, so I am confident I can finish a little better this time.
If you had to offer one for each, what is your standout memory from competing in the tournament and from watching it on television?
I think my memory from when I played in Abu Dhabi before was of how big of an event it was. Going from the Challenge Tour into one of the biggest and best European Tour events on the calendar with one of the strongest player fields was a big change for me, but pretty exciting at the time.
From watching it on TV, I think Tommy [Fleetwood’s] last two victories were pretty exciting to see.
You won two majors last year, were voted both the PGA Tour's and the PGA of America's Player of the Year, and reached world No 1. Describe your two main highlights of the year, one on the course and one off it, and how that has impacted you moving forward.
On course, I can’t look beyond my two major wins and it is too tough to choose one as a highlight over the other. Reaching No 1 was also unbelievable and absolutely a highlight. I was hugely honoured to receive the player of the year recognitions from the PGA Tour and PGA Tour of America.
Off course and away from golf, I have just had an amazing time skiing in Aspen so, because it’s so fresh in my mind, I’m going to choose that as my end of 2018 highlight.
There have been a lot of one-off major winners in golf. So how important was it to get a second major at the US Open, and what did it mean to you to successfully defend the trophy - something that had not been done since 1989?
I wasn’t really thinking about being a one-off major winner as I really believe my game and my mindset are best suited to majors. I was definitely arriving at the US Open with the ambition to defend my title and, although winning my first major was very special, I have to say that defending felt pretty great, as did adding my third so soon after at the PGA Championship.
You missed a lot of competitive golf at the start of 2018 because of injury. How difficult was that time out and how did it impact your season? How does that shape your outlook going into 2019?
It was difficult not to be playing at the time, but I think it turned out to be one of the reasons I went on to have such an amazing year. After the break, I came back out on tour feeling really fresh and excited to compete. I felt even more focused and driven and the time off the tour really reminded me how much I love golf and competing.
It seems a pretty tough task, but how do you improve on your 2018 season? What would constitute success for you in 2019?
I will try to build on the success of 2018. I am definitely taking aim at winning more majors and really looking forward to the [US] Masters having missed it in 2018.
Which major do you feel presents the best opportunity to win? Considering Portrush native Ricky Elliott’s on the bag, the British Open in July must figure prominently.
That is a tough question. Without a doubt, Ricky’s experience at Portrush will be a real asset during the Open. I’m honoured to have the opportunity to defend my US Open and PGA titles as well. I love playing in the majors and think I have a great opportunity in all of them. But I’ll take them one at a time.
A number of players have spoken in the past about the difficultly in adjusting to being world No 1. What was it like to get to that top spot, and how different did you view it to what you imagined? How will it change your life, if at all?
I am still getting used to the fact that I reached No 1 on the world ranking, but I don’t think it is something I will worry about or focus on. As I said, my goal is very much winning majors and the ranking will take care of itself.
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Updated: January 14, 2019 08:46 AM