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Interview with World Number One Brooks Koepka

All Square has spoken to world number one Brooks Koepka as he prepares to make his return to action in this week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA. The American has not competed since the CJ Cup in South Korea in October 2019 due to a knee injury.

The four-time Major winner spoke about his recovery, his goals for this week and the season ahead, and his rivalry with Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.

Do you have good memories of coming here to Abu Dhabi?

I love this place. It’s always fun to get back, since I first came over here on the Challenge Tour. The golf course is really good. It’s in great shape. I feel comfortable here and I hope I play well this week.

The tournament this week is the first in the Rolex Series. What prompted you to get the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on your already impressive resume?

There’s more emphasis on winning these Rolex Series events. The players here are some of the best in the world. That’s why they’re here. You want to play the best events and win them. 

After your injury, when did you get the green light to play here this week?

Even when I got the green light, I just didn’t know whether it was going to feel right, whether I was going to be the same, how my knee was going to feel. I started hitting balls just before Christmas. Everything felt good. Speed was the same. We were hitting on TrackMan and my numbers were exactly what they were the day I left, which is always nice.

From that moment on, after a couple days of hitting balls and not feeling pain, it was okay, I could get back here and do this and finally play.

Does your injury give you extra motivation to win and how did you prepare for 2020 during your 14 weeks out?

When you have something you love taken away from you it makes you appreciate it more. I miss competition and having something to prepare for. When you have three months off it’s not fun. I’m just excited to hit balls again and to practice and play again. Last year there wasn’t much practice. I couldn’t do it with my knee. Towards the end of the year I couldn’t squat down in the bunker or get down to read a putt. Hopefully that’s in the past now.  

Can you tell us about your injury and what procedure you had?

I’ve had problems with the knee since March 2019, dealt with it the whole year and, after having the stem cell done, it felt fine all the way through to Korea. Everything felt good. And then, in Korea, I re-tore it and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad. That’s excruciating. It’s a lot of pain. It’s not fun.

I’ve been trying to make sure everything feels right, but my left knee does not feel like my right knee, I’ll be honest with you. It probably won’t for a while. But it does feel stable, which leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month and a half ago, it felt like it could go either way. It could go left, out, back, it could go any way.

Were you operating at 100 per cent last season?

I don’t think anybody’s ever operating at 100 per cent. That’s a rarity in sports. Everybody’s dinged up a little bit. Nobody wants to hear an excuse, so I’m not going to come out and tell you I’ve got the sniffles or tell you my knee hurts. Just get on with it and go play. I mean, I won with it, so I don’t see any issue with it.

How much do you see Tiger Woods as a threat this year in the Majors and which events are you looking forward to the most?

Brooks Koepka

I think we all know the four tournaments (Majors) I’m looking forward to the most. That’s what you’re remembered by. We can sit here and say how many Majors Arnold Palmer or Tom Watson won, but not how many PGA or European Tour events. You’re remembered by your Majors. So that’s where my focus is. 

Tiger, well it all depends on his health. If he feels good he has showed he can still compete at a high level. If he’s healthy, he’ll be there.

Rory McIlroy said last week he believes that on his day he is the best player in the world. What do you make of that?

He should believe that. Everybody playing should think that. If you don’t think you’re the best player, what’s the point?

Everybody comes here trying to win. That’s the goal. If you don’t believe you’re the best deep down, then there’s something wrong with you. You might as well quit.

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