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Koepka on familiar ground as he prepares for US PGA double defence

Koepka on familiar ground as he prepares for US PGA double defence

Brooks Koepka is confident he will be able to manage the pressure of being a two time defending champion at this week's US PGA Championship because he has been in a similar position before.

Brooks Koepka

The 30-year-old has enjoyed remarkable success at golf's Major Championships in recent years, winning back to back U.S. Open Championship titles in 2017 and 2018 before repeating the trick at the US PGA in 2018 and 2019.

Having followed up success at Bellerive Country Club by defending his title at Bethpage State Park BK Course in May last year, Koepka heads into the first Major of 2020 looking to make it three in a row at TPC Harding Park.

Koepka is not daunted by the prospect because he is on familiar ground, having been the two time defending U.S. Open champion at Pebble Beach Golf Links last year.

He came up just short on that occasion, finishing second behind champion Gary Woodland, but he heads into his quest for a rare 'three-peat' full of confidence having been in contention at last week's WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational on Sunday afternoon before coming joint second.

That represented Koepka's best finish since he won the very same event at TPC Southwind last year and, having been battling a painful knee injury, he is in good shape and ready to challenge this week.

When asked about handling the pressure of going for a third straight crown, Koepka said: "I've already dealt with it at the U.S. Open going into Pebble.

"I feel like I know how to handle it and I played pretty well there. I just got beat.

"My game feels like it's in really, really good shape right now. I like the way I'm hitting it, and I'm putting it really, really well.

"Every day is a lot more comfortable.

"I'm excited. This is a big-boy golf course. You've got to hit it straight and put it in the fairway. It's going to be quite long. I think it kind of plays into my hands."

Brooks Koepka

Koepka admits he relishes playing in the four Majors, particularly when things are far from straightforward on the course.

He added: "I love it. I love the fact that it's probably the toughest test of golf you're going to play all year - set up-wise and then mentally it's exhausting.

"I enjoy when it gets tough. I enjoy when things get complicated. There's always disaster lurking, I think it's something I enjoy, where every shot really means something.

"Every shot is so important and you can't lose focus on one and I think that's something where I'm really proud of myself that I can always just hang in there mentally and hit the shot that I need to hit at the right time, and don't let off the gas pedal.

"I think for some reason, people make golf a lot more complicated than it should be. Worried about where shots go, results, putting more emphasis on this week or the Major weeks, when to me, it almost seems the most relaxing week of the year.

"I feel like Monday to Wednesday, conserving energy mentally, I've got a good routine, nine holes pretty much every day or less, and I leave the golf course feeling pretty refreshed, and then by Sunday, I'm mentally drained.

"I think it's more mentally exhausting where things will take it out of you mentally before physically with a Major. I think that's one of the strengths of my game."

Tiger Woods

Meanwhile, Tiger Woods is confident he can win his 16th Major title this week, despite heading into the event with just four competitive rounds under his belt since mid-February.

“Of course,” Woods answered with a smile when asked with the final question of his pre-tournament press conference if he could win this week.

The 44-year-old only returned to action last month following five months on the sidelines due to injury and the coronavirus pandemic but has plenty of good memories of this week’s venue to draw upon when play gets under way on Thursday, having defeated John Daly in a play-off to win the WGC-American Express Championship in 2005 and also compiling a perfect 5-0 record in the 2009 Presidents Cup.

"I feel good," Woods said. "Obviously I haven't played much competitively, but I’ve been playing a lot at home so I've been getting plenty of reps that way.

“I’m just trying to get my way back into this part of the season. This is what I’ve been gearing up for. We’ve got a lot of big events starting from here, so looking forward to it. This is going to be a fun test for all of us. The rough is up and fairways are much more narrow than they were here in 2009.”

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