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'He'd be a legend': How Ricky Elliott and Brooks Koepka's major winning partnership can take another huge step at The Open

Portrush-born caddie Ricky Elliott is showing his man Brooks Koepka round his home town this week.
Portrush-born caddie Ricky Elliott is showing his man Brooks Koepka round his home town this week.
Portrush-born caddie Ricky Elliott is showing his man Brooks Koepka round his home town this week.
PORTRUSH, NORTHERN IRELAND - JULY 15: Brooks Koepka of the United States and caddie Ricky Elliott speak during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 15, 2019 in Portrush, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
USA's Brooks Koepka (right) with caddy Ricky Elliott during preview day three of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 16, 2019. See PA story GOLF Open. Photo credit should read: Richard Sellers/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use. Still image use only. The Open Championship logo and clear link to The Open website (TheOpen.com) to be included on website publishing.
Gareth Hanna

By Gareth Hanna

Meeting the parents is a significant stage in any relationship.

That's why whatever happens on the course at Royal Portrush this week, it's been a big one for USPGA Champion Brooks Koepka and his Portrush-born caddie Ricky Elliott.

Their six year partnership has been a fruitful one with four major victories and a seemingly unstoppable rise to the summit of the golfing world.

But this week it's back to where it all began for Elliott, who grew up cutting his golfing teeth on The Open course, preparing for a playing career that brought Ulster Boys' and Ulster Youths titles as well as a brief professional stint, when he admits he 'sucked'.

"Unbelievable," he says from the first tee. "I can't believe it's here. The place looks a little different.

"I used to work in the pro shop over there. The lads used to come in, pay their money and away they go.

"Graeme (McDowell) and I used to come down here on our bikes and put them against the wall but now it's gone all big-time with The Open. It's marvellous to see everybody here. We do a circus on the road and to have my pals come to my home-town is pretty special."

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Elliott began, after sacking off his own playing career, by caddying for Maarten Lafeber, before moving on to Ben Curtis and then getting together with Koepka in 2013.

"I called him," explains Koepka, on who made the first move. "We had about a 30-minute phone conversation. I liked the way he went about things. He was kind of light. He was joking on the phone. And that's somebody I want, I want somebody that's not going to be so focused in all the time.

"He first caddied for me at the PGA in 2013. That was the first time I ever played with Tiger on Sunday. He was able to kind of help me through that and that's kind of when I was, like, all right, this is my guy.

"Hopefully he doesn't leave me," he says nervously, before seeming to come to his own conclusion. "Na, he's not going to leave me for a long time."

There's always that fear, isn't there? A better offer might come along.

Not that there are many more enticing prospects in the world of golf right now than Koepka.

"He knows if I'm getting a little bit tense, maybe upset, angry, whatever it is, he can tell just by my walk," continued Koepka, heaping praise on his partner in major domination. "He can tell, just body language and I think that's what makes a great caddie.

"Then under pressure he knows exactly what to say at the right time, and that's what you want in a caddie. And I wouldn't want anybody else on my bag, I know that. He's been tremendous. He's part of the reason why I've had the success I've had. And I love the guy to death. I'm looking forward to many years to come."

The moment that cemented the relationship more than any other, Koepka says, was last year's US Open. Seven over after 13 holes of round two, Elliott staged an intervention.

"He turned to me and he just said, 'You're not far out of it I know it looks that way, but you're not far out of it, so get it going,' recalls Koepka.

"I kind of laughed at him and for the first time he really got serious with me: 'No, get it going. You're not far out of it.'

"That kind of propelled me to have a good back nine and kind of put myself within striking distance on the weekend and then was lucky enough to win it."

And so to this week; meeting the parents.

"It's been fun," said Koepka of his first trip to Elliott's home. "It's been fun to do. We took a little drive around on Friday afternoon, and then went into town. It's fun to go down there.

"We went down to the Harbour Bar, just kind of had some food. It was nice to cool to see everything he's talked about for so long.

"We went and visited his parents, saw where he grew up. It's neat for him and it's neat for me to see because I feel like I've heard so much about this place, I just haven't been able to get here."

On the course, Koepka is following the orders this week. And with good reason.

Elliott knows the Dunluce like the back of his hand. Can he mastermind a fifth major win?

"There would be nothing cooler," smiled Koepka. "Put it this way, I don't think when he grew up that he ever thought there would be an Open Championship here. And to top it off, I don't think he ever thought he'd be a part of it.

"I probably hear more, Ricky, hey, Ricky, what's going on, than anything from the fans this week. I'm sure he'll have quite a bit of friends and family out. It will be a special week for him, for sure.

"To be caddying and to be able to win one here, he'd be a legend, wouldn't he? He already is. But it would be cool to see him win."

The Portrush public will agree.

Now it's up to Koepka to make a good first impression.

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