The hype surrounding the Floridian on the European Challenge Tour this year has been likened to that of Martin Kaymer in 2006, with some experienced touring professionals stating that Koepka is the best they have ever seen.The 23 year old has lived up to that high praise during an incredible 11 month period on the Challenge Tour, which culminated in a gloriously resolute performance at Macdonald Spey Valley Golf Club as he defied extremely trying weather conditions and long rain delays to lift the title.
His final and most important of four Challenge Tour titles came thanks to a three under par 68 and because it is his third victory in 2013, the West Palm Beach native is promoted straight to The European Tour – following in the footsteps of the likes of Edoardo Molinari and Kristoffer Broberg.There, he will join his close friend and compatriot Peter Uihlein as a new breed of young stars from around the world begin to choose the Challenge Tour as the best and most educational route to the top of world golf.
After a four hour delay to his own tee time, Koepka got off to a flying start with five birdies and a bogey taking him to the turn in four under. He started to wobble a little on the back nine with three bogeys in five holes leaving him just one shot clear of the chasing pack but he bounced back to finish with two consecutive birdies and card the joint best round of a tough day to finish top on 18 under.“It’s really exciting,” said Koepka, who is the first American to win three times in a single Challenge Tour season. “It was nice to get my third win here in Scotland and on my final trip before heading home to take some time off.
“This is only the beginning, and I’ve done it in barely a year playing professionally. I know it sounds a little bit cocky, but I have high expectations for myself.“Hopefully I will win on The European Tour next, it sounds cool saying it. I have always wanted to get out there and play with those guys and now I get my room-mate (Uihlein) back!
“Maybe my expectations are borderline too high, but it is a good thing to always push yourself and never be satisfied. I think that is part of some frustration I have been feeling recently, that I am expecting a little bit too much of myself. A good break - going back home - will take care of all of that.”Koepka will travel to Sunningdale for The Open International Final Qualifying stage at Sunningdale tomorrow (Monday) before flying home to West Palm Beach, Florida, for a well-earned rest in the USA and then returning to join the top tier of European golf for the first time.
“It’s really exciting to win but I need a rest and to take some time at home with my friends and family and just hang out with those guys,” he said. “I think it is important to get away from golf and appreciate it a little more.”Sam Walker, meanwhile, put up a strong defence of his title in the northern Scottish town of Aviemore as a two under par 69 left him in tied second place, his second runner-up finish in three weeks.
Walker praised the green-keeping staff for keeping the course playable on a day when two separate suspensions due to heavy rain caused four hours’ worth of delays in the eighth edition of one of the Challenge Tour’s flagship events.“It is amazing what the green staff here were able to do considering just how much rain has fallen here over the last couple of days,” said the Englishman, twice a winner of this event.
“They prepared the course magnificently and should be really proud of their efforts out there today in squeegeeing the greens and everything else, it was unbelievable.”
Walker finished on 15 under par alongside Andrea Pavan (71) of Italy, Englishman Steven Tiley (72) and Korean Byeong-hun An (72), the former US Amateur Champion who sealed the highest finish of his Challenge Tour career.There were four players three shots further back on 12 under, including local favourite Duncan Stewart – from Grantown-on-Spey just 15 minutes away – who sealed his best finish on the Challenge Tour to win the Douglas Lowe Memorial Trophy for the highest-placed Scot.