The Open: Koepka unimpressed by Royal St George’s as star-spangled spat continues

It will be safe to assume that Brooks Koepka won’t be getting honorary membership of Royal St George’s bestowed upon him.

“It’s not my favourite, put it that way,” said the American with a nonchalant shrug. “St Andrews is probably my favourite place in the entire world to play. This one, it’s just not as exciting.”

So much, then, for the observation by the great golfing wordsmith, Bernard Darwin, that the Sandwich course was “as nearly my idea of heaven as is to be attained on any earthly links.”

Each to their own eh? Back in 2003, Koepka watched The Open unfold here as a holidaying 13-year-old but even then it seems, St George’s didn’t give him many teenage kicks.

“I ended up falling asleep and didn’t even see the finish,” he recalled with a wry, reflective grin. “I remember getting yelled at by my mom, in a ‘I didn’t bring you over here to fall asleep’ kind of deal.”

Some 18 years on, Koepka is a major player and a four-time winner of golf’s grand slam titles with a plunder that includes two US PGA crowns and a pair of US Opens. His best finish in The Open, since a debut back in 2013, has been a share of fourth at Portrush two years ago.

That Royal St George’s doesn’t seem to rouse his senses may not be the best omen for him ahead of another assault on the Claret Jug but the 31-year-old is not particularly fazed.

“I’ve won on golf courses that I’m not a big fan of before, so that doesn’t bug me,” added Koepka, who maintains the rough on the links is the toughest he’s seen since he started playing in golf’s greatest championship. “I don’t care whether I like the place or don’t like it. You’ve still got to play good and go hit the shots.”

The shots on the course will come tomorrow. The pot shots off, it, meanwhile, continue. Unless you’ve been hiding in a bathysphere some 20,000 leagues under the sea, you’ll be aware of the on-going verbal volleys between Koepka and the eccentric Bryson DeChambeau. Give it a few months and they’ll be appearing in pantomime at the Pavilion.

This sideshow has certainly kept the golfing world entertained, though, and Koepka yesterday expanded on a feud which has roots going back to 2019 after he lambasted DeChambeau’s slow play as ‘embarrassing’. That led to DeChambeau confronting Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, as tensions simmered. They’ve been simmering ever since.

“He walked up to Ricky and said, ‘you tell your man if he’s got something to say, say it to myself’,” Koepka explained of that 2019 incident. “I thought that was ironic because he went straight to Ricky. Ricky told me when I came out, so I just walked right over to him (DeChambeau). We had a conversation.”

Since then, there has been much well-publicised parrying and jousting between the two American superstars, all of which makes the forthcoming Ryder Cup a deliciously awkward prospect.

“I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be paired together, put it that way,” said Koepka. “We’re not going to be high-fiving and having late-night conversations.”

DeChambeau followed Koepka into the media centre and in an eventful 15 minute blether was asked about all manner of things, from his spat with his compatriot, to his poor Open record – two missed cuts and a tie for 51st – and his inability to shout ‘fore’. 

“I do shout fore,” he insisted with a swift retort to that particular topic. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re bringing up a very controversial thing, which is unfortunate, but 99% of the time I do, and unfortunately people think I don’t.”

Many remained unconvinced by DeChambeau’s assertion. As for his chances of Open glory this week? Well, the softness of the rain-sodden links could suit his prodigious thumps but with dry weather forecast for the rest of the week his battering ram strategy may change. Tiger Woods famously hit just one driver all week en route to an imperious Open triumph at a baked, rock-hard Hoylake in 2006. Could that approach be considered if it firmed up here? “A thousand per cent, no doubt,” DeChambeau added.

The possibility, meanwhile, of DeChambeau and Koepka being paired together as the week unfolds continues to intrigue. “I think there would be a lot more people tuning in, with everything that has gone on over the last two years,” observed Koepka with a mischievous glint in his eye.

Hold on to your hats…

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992