World Number One Brooks Koepka admitted Kobe Bryant inspired him on and off the golf course as he paid an emotional tribute to the former Los Angeles Lakers player at the Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers.
Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among nine people who died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday, with the sporting world mourning the death of the five time NBA Champion.
Koepka sent a poignant message on social media following the tragedy and described the 41-year-old as his "hero", and the four time Major Champion spoke about the impact Bryant had on him when recovering from a long-term wrist problem in 2018.
Referring to a inspirational social media post by Bryant, Koepka said: "I had it in the background of my phone every day. His words were what I looked at every day or every time I looked at my phone, which I think everybody knows is about 20-30 times a day, if not more.
"Just pick it apart, see different things. It kind of helped me understand that it's okay to be upset. I don't want to say I was depressed but you get pretty down and just the fact that it's okay to be down and figure it out and actually grow and enjoy the process because it sucks at the time.
Kobe Bryant was my HERO growing up. Even to this day he was an inspiration to the way I approached things. I woke up every day and saw this quote every time I opened my phone. His mentality motivated me not only in hard times but throughout my whole life. RIP, Kobe. pic.twitter.com/VtoYenQaYt— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) January 26, 2020
"But what's going to come out in the end is going to be a whole lot better and it makes you appreciate everything and look at it different.
"I was a Lakers fan because of him. I kind of missed the (Michael) Jordan era, so anybody I think my age was a big, big Kobe fan.
"I cried that night. I've never met him, but I cried for him. I get goosebumps now thinking about it. I just can't imagine those last few seconds, having to hold your daughter and not know and not see the rest of your family again. Made you really appreciate life and what you have, and golf's a stupid game that we just play. It's really not that important.
"I know everybody likes to think it is, but it's not. Your family, your friends, everybody around you; the impact you might have on other people is way more important than what I do out here and what I shoot."
Koepka finished tied for 57th in the inaugural edition last year and is hopeful of an improvement on the scoreboard after returning from a knee injury at the 2020 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA.
"It's gotten a lot better than it was last year," Koepka said of Royal Greens Golf & Country Club. "Any time you can give a course an extra year to really develop, you're going to see the progression of it. The greens are a lot faster. The rough's a lot thicker. It's settled in nicely.
"I've only played nine holes but it looks in incredible shape just as it was last year, just a little more settled in which will be different.
"I had three months off so there was no point in having a holiday or a vacation. It was more of a work thing. Just got the game ready. It felt good in Abu Dhabi and feels good here.
"Just a matter of going out and executing. I played just fine, great shots in Abu Dhabi. Just didn't score and that's my own fault. Just coming here to try to figure it out and put some scores together, put some rounds together and try to eliminate some mistakes."