Brooks Koepka: On his vagabond days in Europe and 3-iron testing

Brooks Keopka was in the Waste Management Phoenix Open media center, a privileged obligation of the defending champion, and the result of Brook’s “Excellent Adventure” on the European mini-tour. The theory, still currently practiced by young American PGA Tour aspirants, is to go play in Europe where the conditions are rougher and the fields not as accomplished. They do this in order to accumulate World Ranking points that would get them to the Tour without going through the do-or-die American Q-School process and subsequent one-year apprenticeship on the Tour. I had a chance to ask him about it.

Q. I was fascinated a couple years ago to read about your adventures over in Europe going to the tournaments that were way out in the middle of nowhere. What kind of temperament do you have to have to be able to do something like that, and how has it helped you now that you’re back on the American tour?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Well, it’s helped. Everything is easier over here, obviously. You know where to eat, you know where to go. If you’re bored, you know there might be a game you can catch. TV is in English [with the raise of his eyebrows]. Stuff like that. It’s a lot easier.

Over there, it was fun. It helped me grow up a lot. I think I grew up a lot in those two years. It is kind of lonely, I’m not gonna lie. You have to be by yourself a lot. 

It’s just mentally tiring. I experienced it once I think on the Challenge Tour. Going for my third win, I was ready to just come back home. I was tired of it.

It’s just a mental grind over there. I have a lot of respect for the guys who do that. Peter (Uihlein) now, what he’s doing, I have a lot of respect for him still being over there. It’s hard. You’re on a plane for 10 hours going over there and then coming back, and then the next week you might have what, five, six days off and you’re doing it again.

It’s nice to only — six hours is about the longest plane flight, other than Kapalua? It’s nice.

Q. It was a good foundation for what you’re doing now?

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, absolutely. Being able to come over here, it made things a lot easier.

Like I said, knowing what to do, things like that, and especially — even your first year on the tour is different. You don’t know where to stay, where to eat, things like that. Obviously the more you play, you know where to stay, where to eat, things to do.

Q. Asked by another reporter if, in the face of Jordan Spieth’s worldwide successes, he would be open to more international travel to keep pace…

BROOKS KOEPKA: I mean, I already kind of did. I mean, I did my globe-trotting.

I understand what he did. You want to be the best global player. You’ve got to — your game needs to travel. I understand what he was doing.

And plus it’s fun to go to those countries. I mean, for me at least. I enjoyed it. I don’t know if he did. I’m sure he did. It’s fun to see these other cultures, experience food and see what goes on in these places.

A lot of times, just reading about it and see what’s going on, it is fun to get over there and experience it.

Q. I was watching you on the range this afternoon before you played. During that stretch where you were just hitting one 3-iron after another with the TrackMan, what were you working on there? Looked pretty good to me.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it was pretty good. We were just working on distances. We put a new 3-iron in our bag, and we just wanted to make sure [of the distances] — we went out to The Oven [Nike’s research center in Ft. Worth, Texas] this past weekend, and just kind of worked on trying to get it — it was blowing a lot, so it was hard to really tell and obviously this morning was perfect.

Q. You were carrying it 235, 245 [with a tinge of amazement].

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, that’s about right [with a tinge of humble nonchalance].

Q. For you. There seemed to be some difference in the the balls you had in the bag and the balls that they had on the range, and one went further than the other.

BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, it was just — the balls they have on the range, they’re not the resin platinums, and we had those in our bag and we just wanted to hit them to see.

Any time you’re testing, you want to test with the balls you have in the bag. Because I’m not playing the other ones on the golf course. And I’m playing the resin platinum on the golf course. I want to hit those.

Q. Did the TrackMan guy come to you asking for stats or did you ask him to come…

BROOKS KOEPKA: No, I asked him to come. I just wanted to — we haven’t hit the 3-iron that much. It was I think Friday we were testing, and so I just had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to practice with it.

Right after the interview, the Nike rep came up to me in the media center and she was positively euphoric, “That was our new game-improvement 3-iron!” (The easy-to-hit clubs designed to help amateurs hit their best shots.)

“It was?”

“Yeah! Game improvement!”

So if you still have a 3-iron in your bag and have the temerity to try to hit it like Brooks Keopka, at least you know it’ll be “at a retailer near you.”

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