Brooks Koepka has won four major championships and just posed nude for ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue. Starting a golf tournament with a three-stroke deficit isn’t going to ruin his day.
Koepka shot a first-round 67 at East Lake Golf Club on Thursday and pulled into a tie for first place at the Tour Championship. With 54 holes remaining, the No. 1-ranked player in the world has plenty of time to nail down the $15 million prize, with or without his shirt.
It wasn’t fun and games all day for the Florida State alum. He suffered back-to-back bogeys at No. 9, where he missed the green badly on the left, and No. 10, where his tee shot sailed 70 yards off its intended line.
“I felt like the train was off the tracks there,” he said.
Just as quickly, he found a fix for the problem and was able to birdie three of his final four holes.
“Went back to basics and what we’ve been working on and hit some good shots come down, which was nice,” Koepka said. “These greens are so good, you put it inside of 10 feet, you should make it just about every time.”
Making a birdie putt sounds like pressure, but it’s nothing compared to dropping your robe while a crew of photographers take their time to make sure the lighting is c’est magnifique. And all the while instructor Claude Harmon III is around the corner trying to give a lesson.
“I see Claude teaching this maybe 12-year-old kid, and his mom is just over here,” Koepka said. “I’m like, this is awkward. And Claude’s peeking around the corner laughing. I’m pretty sure everybody that was at the golf course (The Floridian National in Palm City, Fla.) saw me that day, but whatever …”
The photos have drawn some good-natured teasing. Paul Casey joked, “Have you ever seen me with my shirt off? It’s not bad.” And Phil Mickelson released a shirtless photo of himself to which Casey quipped, “Has he let that breath out?”
Koepka weighed 187 pounds when the photos were taken. The secret: “Just diet and then trained my (tail) off.” He’s currently at 210 and prefers to be around 200-205 pounds. It’s just difficult to go hard in the gym and closely monitor a diet during thick of the season that demands 12-hour work days.
Now that the first round is in the books, and the magazine viewers are through with the looks, Koepka can bear down and try to nail down his second consecutive PGA Tour Player of the Year award. His best finish in the FedEx Cup came a year ago, when he was ninth. And if it’s one thing Koepka enjoys – whether it’s on the golf course or on a photo shoot – is a little competition.
“I enjoy playing for something, it doesn’t matter what it is,” he said. “To me, it’s excitement. I’m just excited to go play.”
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