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Sports Authority

Mulvena: Koepka deserves more recognition

| Friday, September 7, 2018

I love Tiger Woods. I’ve said this in previous columns, and I stand by it. I think he’s the greatest golfer of all time, and he’s one of the only athletes who I would follow to the ends of the earth. That being said, the fact that Woods’ name lines Twitter, newspapers and television headlines while Brooks Koepka is having a legendary season is concerning.

Koepka has won two of 2018’s majors — the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills and the PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club — and he has tallied six top-10 finishes this season. The West Palm Beach, Florida, native currently sits at 6th in the FedEx Cup rankings, poised for a run at the Tour Championship, and is ranked 2nd in the Official World Golf Rankings. And yet, Koepka just doesn’t get the love he deserves, and it’s not only a result of Tiger Woods’ comeback.

On Tuesday of PGA Championship week, as players readied themselves for media availability, writers packed into the media center for Woods, Speith and McIlroy, but the room was virtually empty for Koepka. The newborn star doesn’t even get that much love from his fellow tour members. When Koepka was sidelined with a hand injury earlier this season, he told the media that only three of his peers — Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson — reached out, and a seemingly discouraged Koepka said, “It just feels like you’re forgotten about quite a bit.” And this simply should not be the case for a world class golfer on the come-up after a serious injury.

Look at Koepka in comparison to a guy like Rickie Fowler. Fowler is an excellent golfer on Tour despite the fact that he has yet to capture that elusive first major. He’s flashy, outgoing and personable, and as a result, the media and fans are drawn to him like moths to the light. But really, media attention aside, Fowler hasn’t put up a season in his career remotely close to Koepka’s 2018 run. Currently ranked No. 9 in the world, Fowler would still be recognized by any golf fan, and probably even most sports fans in general. His 1.6 million Twitter followers are proof enough of that. But Koepka, with his 97,000 Twitter followers, could probably walk into any bar in Chicago without getting so much as a nod.

Tiger Woods’ comeback overshadowing Koepka’s incredible season is at least understandable. It’s not right, but one could imagine a world in which that takes place. But a lack of attention from his peers, the media at large, and the fans just befuddles me. Why aren’t people drawn to him? For one, he is an absolute freak of nature. Before winning the U.S. Open with his final round 68 at Shinnecock Hills, Koepka bench pressed 225 pounds for 14 reps. Secondly, he hits the ball a mile, averaging 314.3 yards per drive. And lastly, Koepka carries himself with a quiet confidence, a swagger characteristic of the underdog we all love. He deserves more from the media, the fans and his peers.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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