PORTRUSH, Northern Ireland — Tiger tried. Brooks denied.
That may be the British tabloid headline, but in reality the effort to gain a little Royal Portrush knowledge was more nuanced. Tiger Woods, never having played Royal Portrush until Sunday, jokingly asked Brooks Koepka for a practice round here in hopes of picking the brain of Ricky Elliott, Koepka’s caddie and the only person who might know the course as well as Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke.
Woods texted his compliments after Koepka’s near win at the U.S. Open. After buttering up the world No. 1 with compliments on “another great finish,” Woods moved in for the request.
“And I said, ‘Hey, dude, do you mind if I tag along and play a practice round?’ I’ve heard nothing,” Woods said.
Laughter ensued but it’s a reminder that Koepka is as competitive as Woods once was and under an odd form of pressure this week to take advantage of his longtime bagman’s familiarity with a venue so few know.
Woods called the course “unbelievable” but also says he’s still not quite there when it comes to knowing what is necessary to contend.
“I’ve seen enough of it to understand that I’m still going to have to do quite a bit of homework in my yardage book of trying to figure out how I’m going to play each hole with the different winds that are going to be predicted to blow, and where to miss the golf ball in the correct spots.”
But he’s also leaning on his secret weapon: caddie Joe LaCava, who arrived early to advance scout Royal Portrush.
“Joey has done just an unbelievable job of getting numbers,” Woods said. “He’s gone out a number of different times because he knows the weather is going to change, the wind is going to change. Our carries are going to be different. Our ending numbers are going to be different. So trying to figure all that out and then put together a game plan that’s going to work.”
A game plan that will not include the input of Ricky Elliott.