Golf: LeBron-like Koepka opens new PGA season in Las Vegas

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Oct 03 2019 08:10 AM

LOS ANGELES - World number one Brooks Koepka, saying titles mean more than awards after being snubbed for PGA Tour Player of the Year honors, opens his 2019-20 campaign Thursday at Las Vegas.

Four-time major winner Koepka will be among the favorites at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open over the 7,225-yard, par-71 layout at TPC Summerlin.

Rory McIlroy, who matched Koepka with three titles last season, was voted the US PGA Tour Player of the Year last month, taking the award for the third time after 2012 and 2014.

Unlike the prior years, when McIlroy won majors on his way to the award, he won this year after taking his second PGA playoff crown by winning the season-ending Tour Championship.

The second-ranked Northern Ireland star also won the Canadian Open and The Players Championship.

Koepka and McIlroy led the tour with three wins last season, with Koepka winning his second consecutive PGA Championship in May, taking the WGC St. Jude Invitational in July and the CJ Cup in South Korea last October.

Asked Wednesday about losing the Player of the Year award, Koepka was matter-of-fact about the slight.

"I don't play for awards," he said. "I just play to win. Win trophies. Win tournaments. Simple as (that). Yeah, it would have been great."

Then he invoked NBA legend LeBron James and his collection of four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards even though he had played in eight consecutive NBA Finals until this year.

"LeBron has only won four MVPs," Koepka said. "And I'm pretty sure he has been the best player for more than just four years."

James, 34, won MVP awards in 2009 and 2010 with Cleveland and in 2012 and 2013 with Miami, when he helped the Heat win the NBA title twice and took his first two championship rings, adding another with Cleveland in 2016 before leaving last year for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Koepka won the 2017 and 2018 US Opens and the 2018 and 2019 PGAs. Until last season, his only non-major US PGA Tour win came at the 2015 Phoenix Open.

Koepka finished in the top five in all four majors this year, sharing second at the Masters behind Tiger Woods, finishing second at the US Open behind Gary Woodland and sharing fourth at the British Open behind Irishman Shane Lowry.

- Canada's DeLaet begins comeback -

Bryson DeChambeau is the defending champion in Las Vegas while fellow American Patrick Cantlay won in 2017, taking his first PGA title, and finished second last year.

Koepka, a Vegas runner-up in 2016 after an opening 62, will play alongside US compatriot Woodland and Australia's Adam Scott in the first two rounds while DeChambeau will play alongside Cantlay and Webb Simpson.

Canada's Graham DeLaet makes his return after an injury layoff of nearly two years. The 37-year-old from Saskatchewan, a 2016 Olympian, had a second microdiscectomy on his back and a stem-cell injection. He's playing on a major medical exemption after changing his comeback plans several times.

"At some point, I just kind of have to give it a try," he said.

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