Brooks Koepka went unnoticed as he worked out in a public gym during the US PGA Championship, but hopes those days are over after his historic performances in major championships.
Koepka carded a closing 66 in a breathless final round at Bellerive Country Club to finish two shots ahead of a rejuvenated Tiger Woods, joining Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the US Open and US PGA in the same season.
After becoming the first player in 29 years to win back-to-back US Open titles in June, Koepka has now won three of his last six major starts, a wrist injury having forced him to sit out the Masters in April.
During his winner’s press conference at Shinnecock Hills in June Koepka complained of feeling “overlooked” and when asked on Sunday if he feels he will finally get the recognition he deserves, the answer was noticeably abrupt.
“I hope so,” said the 28-year-old, who had earlier told the story of lifting weights in peace before the third round in St Louis while his friend and world number one Dustin Johnson was asked for selfies by fans.
“I use it as motivation,” added Koepka, who is now ranked second in the world behind Johnson. “You can’t hide when you’re on the top of the leaderboard. You can’t hide my name. So just try to get to the top of the leaderboard and work from there.
“I don’t care what anybody else says. You’re always going to have fans and you’re always going to have people that hate you. The people around me, they know who I am, and that’s really all I care about.
“I like to reach out to the fans and have support. I think that’s always great to have the support of fans and as many people as you can behind you, and I try to do that. I try to acknowledge all the fans as much as I can.
“But there’s always going to be people that hate you, but you’ve just got to move on with it and use that as motivation.”
Whether Koepka is right to feel overlooked is a matter of debate, but he was certainly not the crowd favourite at Bellerive as Woods threatened to pull off one of the greatest sporting comebacks.
After starting the final round four shots behind Koepka, Woods closed to within a shot of his fellow American on three occasions, only for Koepka to hold his nerve and crucially produce some superb shots under pressure to birdie the 15th and 16th.
“I think other than me and my team, everybody was rooting for Tiger. As they should,” Koepka added. “He’s probably the greatest player to ever play the game and to have the comeback that he’s having is incredible.
“You look at the British Open, when he finally got that lead, how energetic that crowd was. And then when he started making that run, it brought me back to when I was a kid and when I was watching him and you heard those roars.
“I remember I went to the British Open when Ben Curtis won (in 2003). And he was kind of making a charge, and you could hear the roars. Being a part of that as a fan is cool, and even when you’re playing, it’s still pretty neat.
“It kind of pushes you to step up your game. I mean, you have to because you know he’s right there if you fall.”