Brooks Koepka is the 36-hole leader of the Frys.com Open and represents the latest thinking on how to get to the PGA Tour. He shot 7-under 64 to lead by one over long-hitting Jason Kokrak who shot 65.
Because a direct path to the PGA Tour is now foreclosed by the Tour using the Web.com Tour as it’s sole conduit, it’s another year that some young players don’t want waste when they could be playing on the biggest stage now (e.g. Jordan Spieth). So they are going to Europe.
Koepke’s management company was well-connected in Europe and arranged a number of sponsor exemptions on the Challenge Tour, the European Tour’s feeder tour. Seems like the same situation as in the U.S., but it’s not. You get a battlefield promotion with three wins as in the U.S., but that gets you earning world ranking points faster.
With his three Challenge Tour wins, he had immediate access to the European Tour and the ranking points he could earn there. He comes into this week ranked World No. 100. Florida State is, no doubt, quite proud. Peter Uihlein went the same route and is now ranked No. 69. They traveled together in Europe and became close enough that they are now roommates in Florida. And in the process, he played in 15 countries including Kenya, where he went on a rollicking 3-hour taxi ride that should have taken 15 or 20 minutes, and Kazhakstan where he sampled horse meat.
Koepke is hoping to get enough sponsor exemptions in the U.S., as he did this week, so that he can begin earning points and even a win here. He’s definitely in position and he clearly has the talent. He’s T24 in Driving Accuracy (Thursday wasn’t a great day), 18th in Driving Distance, T7 in Greens in Regulation and 4th in Strokes Gained Putting, the new “Gold Standard” of putting stats.
If he can gain status on both tours he plans to play them both. He really enjoyed the travel through different countries and he’s smart enough to recognize what a wonderful rounding-out experience it is.
I would be playing both. I would try to go back and forth. I mean, every week over here is unbelievable, but play some tournaments over there still.
You know, I think my game needs to be well rounded. I want to compete in British Opens and things like that. Going over there I think allows me to.
In his case, it makes sense that he’s planning that far ahead. And at the rate he’s going, it may come sooner rather than later.