PEBBLE BEACH, California – If Brooks Koepka was concerned about fame or personal branding, he would have a logo in the shape of a boulder may have sewn to the shoulder seams of his golf shirts. As it is, Koepka does not even have an equipment sponsor.
Koepka is unwrapped, emotionless and non-apologetic in itself. Koepka is not a star manufactured by the marketing machine of golf. But he may be exactly what a sport seeks after the heir to Tiger Woods.
Koepka is the number 1 in the world, a role for which he seems to be perfect. He walks with a swagger, radiates a tough, leading man and is built like a bouncer, which may explain his success in rejecting his competition.
Koepka, 29, has won four of the last eight majors he has played, including the past two United States Opens. With a win this week at Pebble Beach Golf Links, Koepka will only be the second player, and the first since Willie Anderson in 1905, to launch an Open three-turf.
Pebble Beach & # 39; s spectacular seaside location provided the stage for one of Woods 'most indelible performances: Woods' 15-stroke win at the 2000 US Open. Trevor Scott, a spectator at Pebble, said he saw Woods racing on the field and that he felt the same weak fear on Tuesday as he braved the heat to see how Koepka played nine holes for the 119th edition of the tournament.
"This guy," Scott said, "is an honest athlete."
The comparisons with Woods do not end here.
"Tiger mentally went to a place other than the rest of us can do," said Graeme McDowell, who won the US Open in 2010, the last time it was held at Pebble Beach. "But Brooks can come with the little fries, the little comments, and take himself to places that we've only seen from guys like Tiger."
Although Koepka does not shy away from promotion, he has managed to find him. He had to change his phone number this week because fans had somehow got a hold of it and bombarded him with text messages and voicemail messages.
When asked about their content, Koepka blushed and said, "I don't know if I can say it."
Koepka is not flashy, but his galleries are becoming more colorful. Scott stood next to Scott in a line for signatures on Tuesday and was Patrick Shaw, who yelled at Koepka that he had completed & # 39; fifty push-ups "so that I look like you."
Shaw received Koepka & # 39; s attention, but with his clothes, not his comment. He was wearing red, white and blue pants with a Declaration of Independence pattern and a red T-shirt with & # 39; Brooks & # 39; Twin Bro & # 39; written on the front.
At least Shaw has spelled the name of Koepka correctly. In the official transcript of the United States Golf Association of Koepka's Tuesday conference, his name appeared everywhere as "Brook."
"Really?" Koepka said when he told about the missing letter. He remained silent and processed the error like a private pair of glasses to assess evidence at a crime scene. For Koepka it was further proof, along with a US Open television promo who did not include him as one of the young players who was ready to take the torch from Woods, that he is Onvisible Man of golf.
The USGA & # 39; s mistake and Fox Sports & # 39; omission could be the misery of the field because a misguided Koepka is an inspired Koepka.
Two years ago at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, Koepka won the US Open with four shots after paying attention to two of the blond boys of the golf game, Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler. A year ago at Shinnecock Hills on Long Island, Koepka shuddered to be left out of the list of notable players from Golf Channel – and won the Open with one blow.
At the G.G.A. Championship in Missouri two months later, Koepka eked out of a two-stroke victory after he and Dustin Johnson, his friend and rival, visited a health club, where a few of the other customers flew to Koepka about being present in the presence of .. Johnson. Miffed that the wave channel analyst Brandel Chamblee had doubted his strength, Koepka successfully defended his P.G.A. title last month
"You must always find something to give you a little extra motivation," Koepka said.
During the ten-year Great Drought of Woods, the image of golf makers threw several players in the spotlight to see if they would get stuck. Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Fowler have had glowing moments, but they have all withered in the sparkle produced. Asked for advice he would give Koepka, McIlroy, a four-fold big winner, warned against overexposure.
"You know, say no to things," McIlroy said. "Just make sure that golf and your achievements are still the number 1 priority."
Koepka gives priority to the four majors, although he barely disappears in between. He has two regular PGA Tour wins and a handful of second place finishes. What he has achieved over the past two years, Spieth said, "is not just a run. This is who he is. And he will be a force to be reckoned with for decades. So get used to it."
Koepka circles golf lessons as bloodless as a shark, but leaves in his wire-to-wire victory over the PGA Championship, he revealed a very human side. Ahead after seven strokes after 54 holes, Koepka made four consecutive bogeys on the back nine Sundays and let his advantage shrink to a single stroke. By holding on to a two-shot win over Johnson, Koepka showed his mental courage.
"I made great shots when I needed that," Koepka said.
That is as close as he will boast. He even wriggles when his friends brag about him.
Justin Thomas, who was forced to get out of the P.G.A. Championship due to a wrist injury, said he learned to look a lot at Koepka in the final round.
"I just felt that he had done that very well," Thomas said, adding that if he was in the area a similar scenario he would try "to channel my inner BK"
When Koepka heard what Thomas said, he sat down in his chair and released an embarrassed smile. "I have no idea what my inner B.K. means," he said.
Koepka does not seem to understand that he is a big problem. When he enters a restaurant and people start pointing and whispering, he looks around to see which celebrity is in their midst.
"I am like:" What is everyone looking at? ", Koepka said
Koepka's face is a gaze from a thousand yard, but he doesn't understand why it makes him look boring. Doesn't everyone look so serious at work?
Away from the job, Koepka is not afraid to show his playful side.During a vacation in the Maldives in January, he changed into a purple men's thong, standing next to his girlfriend, the actress and model Jena Sims, who also wore a leather belt , and was photographed from behind.
The photo Sims posted on her Instagram account was entitled: "Who wore it better?"
Even when he was almost naked, Koepka could He did not hide his competitive position and stood on his tippy toes to tighten his muscles and streamline his posture.
"It's all for fun," he said.
Johnson saw the not quite humorous, he said he would do just about anything with or for Koepka ar the belt was too much.
"I am not dressing up," Johnson said. "Especially the little banana hammock he was wearing."
Does Koepka carry the biggest smile on the conclusion of the Open US on Sunday? Those who overlook him do so at their own risk.