Brooks Koepka was forged in Europe

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Kiradech Aphibarnrat is not a short batter in the European Tour, but the Thai pro couldn't help but watched the opening of the Omega European Masters 2013 in awe.

One of his game partners would stand on the tee and ride the turn after the ride through the Swiss mountain air, with his ball following a different trajectory than his colleagues before he descended on the field of Golf Club Crans-sur-Sierre.

"I could only say that my caddy was:" This guy will someday be good, "Aphibarnrat recalled two weeks ago. "The way he hit it, he wasn't scared. He just bombed every photo. Just go for the greens, go for the pins."

The player: Brooks Koepka.

With his triumph on the P.G.A. Championship, Koepka, a Florida resident, now owns four major titles in the last 24 months. This week on Pebble Beach, he will try to join Willie Anderson as the second man to win three consecutive open crowns from the United States. Anderson won from 1903 to 1905.

"I always thought he was pretty good," said Danny Willett, a former Masters champion, "but what he has done in the past 18 months is nothing less than remarkable."

Willett and Aphibarnrat are among dozens of European Tour pros who introduced Koepka in 2013 and 2014 when he took the less conventional path to the biggest stage of golf – a recent American colleague who rose through the European ranks after his career

Koepka failed to continue in the Tour, the development arm for the PGA Tour. So he started playing in Europe after Rocky Hambric, whose agency runs Koepka, suggested playing overseas in the Challenge Tour – Europe's development counterpart.

Koepka calls his three years on the European circuit "the coolest experience of my life."

"The camaraderie here is a bit different," he told reporters in Abu Dhabi in January . "I personally like it better than in the United States."

Koepka recorded his first professional win in Spain in 2012. When the 2013 season started, he only needed 10 challenges to win three times and earn a promotion for the European Tour.

The European Masters seem to be where his new peers really started noticing.

"You could not have known he would be so good so quickly," says Joost Luiten, a Belgian pro. "We all knew he was a good player, but what he did is up to him.

" It was always amazing when he hit the road – how can he touch it for so long? "Said Luiten

Although they crossed each other's paths during their younger days, Aphibarnrat said he witnessed another Koepka with the European Masters.

" He didn't win at the end of the week ", Aphibarnrat said," but you could see right away that this guy will be okay one day. "

Koepka finished for the seventh of that week. It took one more start to & # 39; the world's top 100 to crack and rose to number 98 with a share of 22 at the KLM Open.

Koepka's only victory in the European Tour came at the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open, 65 shot on the last day to overtake Wade Ormsby and Ian Poulter. Willett, who was in fourth position, was linked to Koepka on the last day.

"He just treated himself very well," said Willett. a large golf course suited for him. "

He started playing in the United States in 2013, and in 2015 in Phoenix, Koepka won his first PGA Tour victory, effectively ending his full-time European job. Tour days.

And yet, noted Willett, Koepka still tends to be overlooked. He remembered a conversation in a dressing room two weeks after the P.G.A. Championship in which fellow pro & # 39; s discussed their favorites for Pebble Beach.

"They were talking about Rory [McIlroy] that about D.J. [Dustin Johnson]" said Willett. "It's two weeks after he won!

" I think it gives him a little fuel, "Willett continued." He is still good friends with all the boys, but I think it's just human nature is when people overlook it for unknown reasons. He is world number one, and he has won four of his last seven majors. "

There is no doubt that the days in Europe have helped to strengthen Koepka's determination.

" I just hope that at some point he will not play well, so we can all have a chance to win one, "Willett said." That would be fun. "

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