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Koepka is real deal, says Ulster caddy

 

By Adam McKendry

Portrush caddy Ricky Elliott made it back-to-back wins at the US Open when Brooks Koepka successfully defended his title at Shinnecock Hills.

Koepka held off opposition from Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson to retain the title.

And on the bag with him was Ulsterman Elliott, also his assistant at Erin Hills last year.

For the second year in a row, Elliott has bagged a tasty sum of around $200,000 (£151,000) for his role in Koepka's championship win, just under 10% of the $2.16million given to his player.

The 41-year-old, who had a successful career as an amateur player when he won the Ulster Boys' and Ulster Youths' Championships, has been on Koepka's bag for the last six years.

The pair linked up after Elliott had spells with Maarten Lafeber and former Open Championship winner Ben Curtis.

Having already won a Major with Koepka last year, Elliott admitted this one was less of a surprise and more validation for the talent the American possesses.

"I guess when you win the first one, it's such a surprise, because to win a Major is like... it just happens for some people," Elliott said.

"But I think it's validation that (Koepka) is one of the best players in the world. It's not easy to win one; but if you win two, I think it will feel even better."

It was a brilliant final round for the now World No.4 who, after seeing Fleetwood post a record-equalling 63 to set the score in the clubhouse at two over, always stayed just that step ahead of the chasing pack.

A crucial bogey save at the 11th held his momentum, and a birdie at the par-five 16th put him in a position where he could afford to bogey the last for the win.

But all of that might never have happened after Koepka suffered a serious wrist injury that forced him out of action for 15 weeks at the start of the season, including missing The Masters.

However, the American battled back to regain full fitness, and his patience has been rewarded and then some, with Elliott immensely proud of what Koepka pulled off.

"Our goal was to get back to the US Open," Elliott admitted. "He recovered quickly; he did all his work at home, what he had to do to get fit and healthy again.

"We were able to play three or four weeks before the US Open and his game came back pretty well. If you would have said to me in March that we'd be playing in the US Open, I would have bitten my hand off for it! To win it again is just incredible.

"He's just a real strong mental guy, he's unflappable. When he hits a bad shot, he never gives me any grief. He gets on with it.

"If we hit one over the back (of the green), he'd probably just turn to me and go, 'Well, I hit that quite a bit hard'. That's unusual for a good athlete or player.

"He takes a huge responsibility in what he's doing out there."

• Leona Maguire will hope it's third time lucky this week as she seeks to continue her sensational start to her professional career by grabbing her maiden win.

The Co Cavan star (23) tied for 15th on her professional debut in the ShopRite LPGA Classic two weeks ago before finishing tied third in the Symetra Tour's Forsyth Classic in Illinois on Sunday.

She has shot six consecutive rounds in the 60s and after picking up $6,574 to debut at 51st in the "Volvik Race for the Card", she'll be looking to go all the way in the Symetra Tour's Island Resort Championship in Michigan.

She'll be joined by Jordanstown's Stephanie Meadow, who shot a 69 to finish tied for seventh on nine-under on Sunday, moving up one spot to fourth in the race for 10 LPGA Tour cards with $36,094. Leona's sister Lisamissed the cut in Illinois and has this week off.

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