Chase Koepka on being the brother of the US Open championOctober 26, 2017 Golf News
Chase Koepka is following in the footsteps of big brother Brooks after a stunning graduation from the Challenge Tour. He chatted to NCG's Mark Townsend
It’s been quite a year for the Koepka brothers. Going into 2017 Brooks was a Ryder Cup star (P4 W3 L1) but he wasn’t a big-time winner – on Sunday June 18 he decimated the US Open field to finish the week at Erin Hills, home to all those social media jokes of knee-high rough, on a hugely unlikely 16 under par.
His brother Chase, four years his junior, came into this year with a category on the Challenge Tour after missing the cut at the European Tour’s Q School. He would play Minor League events in the United States to stay sharp at the beginning of the season before getting going on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Challenge Tour path was one that his elder brother had already trodden when Brooks won three times by June to catapult himself straight onto the European Tour in 2013.
Chase played the odd event last year but was basically coming into this year’s Challenge Tour as a bit of a novice and, like Brooks’ annus mirabilis, it has worked out a treat.
What was the plan at the start of the year?
The final stage of Q School and second stage of Web.Com came at the same time and I went for Europe. I enjoyed my time playing in Europe last year and, though I didn’t play too well in Spain, I got a category for the Challenge Tour and the plan was to make the most of that and try and get some sponsors’ invites.
How successful were the invites?
I got three, at the Czech where I was 16th, then the following week in Switzerland where I was third and then Italy in July where I tied for second. After that I moved into a different category and so had all the starts that I needed.
I also got a start in the European Open in Germany on the main tour and finished in the top 30 so that helped a lot too.
There was also a nice pay day ($140,000 each) in the PGA Tour pairs event in New Orleans where you and Brooks tied for fifth?
I wanted to take the first tee shot as I was a bit nervous but after that I was a bit nervous here and there but generally felt fine.
My game was good that week. The first two rounds Brooks wasn’t playing his best so he was quite reliant on me – and that helped me a bit to be aggressive – then on the weekend his game came around and he had eight birdies on the Sunday and I had two and an eagle.
There were so many times I would be 20 feet away and he would be 10, or the other way round and he would hole before me.
How did you split the money?
Straight down the middle, half and half.
Your builds are pretty different, are your games alike?
Completely different. We’re both good putters but that’s about it. He hits it such a long way but isn’t very accurate off the tee. I tend to be more accurate. When we played together I was in some spots that I wasn’t used to.
His long-iron game is phenomenal and he’s one of the best in the world. My wedge game is quite sharp, that is one of my key things – if that is solid I will be making a lot of birdies and have a chance to win.
If you were to play Brooks for a few dollars where would you take him?
I’d go to the Floridian in Palm City, it’s very tricky off the tee and penalises every bad shot and I’ve edged him out there a few times.
I remember beating him the last day before he went to college, we were only planning on playing nine holes and I finally beat him off the back tees which I never normally played. So he made us play 18 – and he beat me but I didn’t care.
Is he as laid back as he appears?
Brooks is very laid back but he’s also very focused on going to the gym and being physically fit. He’s a very hard worker on the range as well.
I think he’s one of the top five in the world so I will always pick his brains. We don’t get to play or practise too much but we will help each other and have short-game challenges, we’re very competitive.
Do your parents play?
My dad plays off 7, mum watches.
Given the number of tournaments on the Challenge Tour in a relatively short period how hard was it to plan for a tour that you’re not that familiar with?
I had no idea, we were going week by week for a while. At a lot of events early on I would fly hoping I would get in. I would try and play four weeks in a row and then have a week off and carry on like that. At one point I think I played 16 out of 18 weeks.
Then when I go home to the States it has all been about resting.
Where were you when Brooks won the US Open?
At home trying to pack for a tournament in Denmark. I had to leave 15 minutes after he got it done and we FaceTimed as I was boarding the flight which was pretty special.
I always thought he might win a major, he is good in the big ones, he thrives under pressure and they suit his game. The Masters is the only major where he hasn’t had a top 10 and he was 11th this year so I wasn’t really shocked and I would expect him to win more.
What have you learnt about yourself this year?
How to stay patient. We’ve played in lots of different and difficult conditions and I’m not used to the cold and rain and that has been key this year.
At two events I’ve finished top five and I didn’t think I had that good a game on those weeks. Last year I would have missed the cut.
How well did you know any of the other players?
I knew a lot of the guys knew a bit from college golf and at amateur events and there are a lot of good guys on the tour.
I haven’t been based anywhere so I have kept moving around and I have got college team-mates who I have been able to stay with on off weeks.
Tapio Pulkkanen, who is leading the money list, stayed with me for five weeks over the winter in Florida. We were in a play-off in Kazakhstan, which he won, so he asked if it would still be OK to share? (The runners-up spot guaranteed Chase his spot on next year’s European Tour).
What is the strangest thing you’ve eaten this season?
It was in the Czech Republic and I honestly don’t know what it was called or what it was. It was written in Czech and it looked like slop, I don’t know how to describe it. There have been a few places where I’ve not known what I was eating so have just tried it.
Now you know Europe pretty well where would you go for a weekend break?
I love Switzerland, that’s one of my favourite places. Growing up I have always looked forward to going to Crans, it looks beautiful. When I was younger I would wake up in the morning and watch golf in Europe and I always thought it was so cool.