Golf

Palm Beach’s Brooks Koepka making climb up World Golf Ranking

Like most sports, the followers of golf focus on the current elite and the big names of the past who are part of the game’s history.

The current elite would certainly include the top 10 in the world or so, but beyond those players things tend to get a little more obscure and foggier for the casual fan.

Brooks Koepka, a true, home-grown Floridian from Palm Beach, is quickly stepping out of that fog with more and more people taking note of his recent deeds — particularly in the majors.

“I don’t want to be just another guy out here on the PGA Tour,” Koepka has said.

Born in Wellington and attending West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman High and then Florida State University, Koepka has made a steady climb up the world golf rankings, now checking in at No. 16 on a list that includes a top five, in order, of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Justin Rose.

Koepka’s No. 16 ranking stacks up pretty well against two of golf’s most-recognized names — Phil Mickelson (No. 23) and Tiger Woods (No. 257 . . . ouch).

Koepka has traveled this far in his rapid rise at the age of 25.

“It’s hard to crack the top 50,” Koepka said of the rankings, “but once you are in there, it’s easier to stay in there.”

OK, so you say rankings don’t impress you all that much.

Well, maybe this will — Koepka has earned nearly $3.4 million in 2015 in prize money, and that doesn’t include endorsements, etc.

As for majors, Koepka hasn’t won any, but he has performed admirably in them.

In 2014, he did not play the Masters, but tied for fourth in the U.S. Open, tied for 67th in The Open Championship and tied for 15th at the PGA. In 2015, he tied for 33rd at the Masters, tied for 18th at the U.S. Open, tied for 10th at The Open Championship and tied for fifth at the PGA.

“I want to be the best player in the world,” Koepka said after last March’s World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship at Doral. “I know I’m taking the right strides and doing the right things.”

He’s certainly headed in the right direction. At the end of 2014, he was ranked 34th in the world before making the steady and relentless climb up to 16th.

Koepka’s golf journey has taken him all over the world. Kazakhstan, Kenya, Qatar, Switzerland, Netherlands, Scotland and many, many more far-off places.

He has six professional wins, but only one PGA Tour triumph, the Waste Management Phoenix Open this past February.

“I think a couple of wins would be nice,” Koepka said.

Last week, Koepka was paired with Woods in the Wyndham Championship at Greensboro, North Carolina. Woods played well in the first three rounds, but faltered in Sunday’s final round. However, Koepka — who finished tied for sixth in the tournament — found playing alongside Woods both interesting and more than enjoyable.

“They [the spectators] were all obviously rooting for Tiger, cheering him on,” Koepka said afterward. “Of course, they would. He’s the greatest player ever.”

That’s a fact, Jack

Can golf replace cricket as the main sport in India?

Nah, won’t happen, but the country of 1.3 billion people is paying more and more attention to the dimpled-white-ball sport.

That’s because of Anirban Lahiri, age 28, who tied for fifth at this year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. That was the best finish by a native of India in major championship history, surpassing Jeev Milkha’s tie for ninth in the 2008 PGA.

Lahiri had a surprise waiting for him after he finished his final round at Whistling Straits.

“I returned to the locker room, and other golfers like Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson congratulated me and said ‘well-played,’” Lahiri said. “It is always good to be appreciated and be respected for your performance.”

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