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'I love that place': Brooks Koepka heaps praise on Royal Portrush and reveals how Ricky Elliott confrontation helped spark Bryson DeChambeau feud

Koepka held court at Royal St George’s on Tuesday.

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Dream team: Brooks Koepka and his caddie, Portrush man Ricky Elliott at The Open in 2019.

Dream team: Brooks Koepka and his caddie, Portrush man Ricky Elliott at The Open in 2019.

Brooks Koepka had plenty to say during his pre-tournament interview ahead of the 149th Open (Handout RandA/PA)

Brooks Koepka had plenty to say during his pre-tournament interview ahead of the 149th Open (Handout RandA/PA)

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Dream team: Brooks Koepka and his caddie, Portrush man Ricky Elliott at The Open in 2019.

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka has heaped praise on Royal Portrush, claiming the north coast venue is up there with St Andrew's as his favourite on the Open Championship rota.

The major rolls into Royal St George's this week after last year's postponement due to Covid-19 with Koepka looking to improve on his tied fourth place finish last time out in 2019.

That was when the tournament returned to Portrush's Dunluce Links for the first time since 1951, earning rave reviews from the world's top stars.

Still two years on, Koepka is full of praise for the event.

"I don't know, it (Royal St George's) is not my favourite venue that we've played," he said at his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday. "I think Portrush and St Andrews are definitely the favourites.

"St Andrews is probably my favourite place in the entire world to play. Portrush two years ago, I love that place. I thought that was just such a good Open. A fun golf course to play. Really enjoyed that. This one, it's just not as exciting. I don't know why.

"I haven't seen all 18. I'll see the back nine today. But quite a few blind tee shots, kind of hitting to nothing. Fairways are quite undulating. I don't know, it's not my favourite of the rotation, put it that way.

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"It doesn't matter. I've won on golf courses that I'm not a big fan of before. It has nothing to do with it. Still got to get up and go hit the shot and do what I'm supposed to do, so that doesn't bug me. I don't care whether I like the place, don't like it. You've still got to play good and go hit the shots."

Koepka also opened up on how it was a controntation with his Portrush-born caddy Ricky Elliott that helped spark his public feud with fellow American Bryson DeChambeau.

It dates back to 2019 and Koepka criticising DeChambeau’s slow play as “embarrassing”, to which DeChambeau took exception.

That led to an incident later that year at The Northern Trust tournament when DeChambeau confronted Elliott.

“He walked up to Ricky and said ‘You tell your man if he’s got something to say, say it to myself’,” Koepka explained on Tuesday. “I thought that was ironic because he went straight to Ricky.

“Ricky told me when I came out, I hit a few putts and then just walked right over to him. We had a conversation.

“We both agreed we’d leave each other out of it and wouldn’t mention each other, just kind of let it die off. So then he was playing video games online or whatever and brought my name up and said a few things (about Koepka’s physique), so now it’s fair game.”

The two players are set to be Ryder Cup team-mates for the second time in September, but Koepka insists that will not be an issue as the United States look to regain the trophy from Padraig Harrington’s European side.

“I can deal with anybody in the world for a week,” the 31-year-old added. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be paired together, put it that way. I think it’s kind of obvious. We’re not going to be high fiving and having late-night conversations.

“I don’t view it as an issue. I don’t think he does. Like I said, I can put anything aside for a team, business, whatever, just to get the job done.”

The job at hand this week is attempting to win the third leg of a career grand slam in Sandwich, a task which may prove easier having failed to convert good chances to win both the US PGA and US Open.

“I probably haven’t played my best over here,” said Koepka, who was nevertheless sixth in 2017 and fourth in 2019.

“I think over the last couple years, I don’t want to say it’s been a distraction, but I’ve won the PGA or the US Open before, and I’ve enjoyed those weeks after a little too much.”

In a typically entertaining press conference, Koepka also explained how he even fell asleep as a 13-year-old spectator at Royal St George's in 2003, missing the dramatic closing stages as 500-1 outsider Ben Curtis defied the odds to lift the Claret Jug.

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Ben Curtis was a shock winner of the 2003 Open at Royal St George’s (Andrew Parsons/PA)

Ben Curtis was a shock winner of the 2003 Open at Royal St George’s (Andrew Parsons/PA)

PA

Ben Curtis was a shock winner of the 2003 Open at Royal St George’s (Andrew Parsons/PA)

“Tiger (Woods) was playing on 13 and my brother had said something and Tiger said something back to him and we thought it was the coolest thing at the time,” Koepka recalled.

“I remember Thomas (Bjorn) took a few out of the bunker (on 16) and I think Ben (Curtis) was maybe a group or two behind him, but I ended up falling asleep right in the little pavilion to the right of 18 and didn’t even see the finish.

“I remember getting yelled at by my mom, ‘I didn’t bring you over here to fall asleep’ kind of deal. But it was fun. It was a cool trip.”


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