PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – The way his caddie tells it, Brooks Koepka was never opposed to speaking his mind. He just didn’t go out of his way to do it.
That’s changed over the past few months, with Koepka sounding off on slow play, Sergio Garcia temper tantrums and more.
Those high-profile takes pushed Koepka’s name into the headlines early in 2019 and, after a handful of lackluster starts, he’s back in the discussion due to his play through two rounds at the Honda Classic.
“I love when it plays tough,” Koepka said. “I love when the wind is up. I love the firm greens and the Bermuda. I’m excited to be back on Bermuda. It’s a good spot for me, just need to clean a few things up this weekend and not hit any more balls in the water on par 3s.”
He’s done that twice so far and took a double-bogey 5 Friday at the par-3 fifth as a result. Things have been mostly smooth otherwise, and Koepka enters Saturday’s third round T-4 at 4 under following a 1-under 69 in Round 2.
Koepka is two shots back of co-leaders Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell and by far the biggest name among the first dozen on the leaderboard. The three-time major winner has been known mostly for his incredible accomplishments on the big stage and little else in year’s past.
A few candid interviews won’t change that overnight, but his takes were well-received and proof that speaking one’s mind is not inherently bad.
“He wasn’t ever really looking for (attention),” caddie Ricky Elliot said. “It’s obviously come his way through his good play last year and he’s a regular guy. He’s going to answer a question honestly. He’s not out to get the attention. It’s coming his way now and he feels like he’s in a position where he has to take the game forward and voice his opinion because that’s what top players are supposed to do.”
Koepka was asked about it earlier this week and basically said we were getting a lot of Brooks Lite in previous media sessions. Now the back-to-back U.S. Open champ feels more comfortable bringing it in full.
“You’re actually probably getting the real me now,” Koepka said. “I think before I was just trying to be politically correct and not stir any bubbles, just kind of go on with things and be unnoticed. To be honest with you, I feel like now where I’ve put myself in the game, I’ve kind of established myself and I feel I actually do have a voice and it will be heard.”
He’s definitely heard and recognized around PGA National near his hometown of West Palm Beach. He’s also off to a good start, with a serious chance to grab his second win of the season entering a 12:55 p.m. tee time Saturday alongside Ryan Armour.
Koepka had to skip his hometown event last year due to a wrist injury, and he missed the cut in 2017.
A lot has changed since then, internally and externally.
“I’ve definitely matured as a player,” Koepka said. “I haven’t played here as a major champion, so just have quite a bit of confidence there too.”