Koepka tired of hearing about Ryder Cup from Europe

FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2015, file photo, Brooks Koepka reacts after chipping in for birdie on the 13th hole during the first round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Whistling Straits in Haven, Wis. Koepka is the lone American rookie on the Ryder Cup team who already has felt the sting of losing twice. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
AP

Brooks Koepka already knows the sting of losing in the Ryder Cup.

And he hasn't even played in one yet.

The lone rookie on this American team, Koepka was keeping the wrong company during the last two losses. He was just starting his career on the Challenge Tour, coming off consecutive missed cuts in Kazakhstan and France when he broke through for a three-shot victory in the Catalunya Challenge in Spain.

That was the same day the Americans took a 10-6 lead into the final day at Medinah, only for Europe to produce the greatest comeback by a visiting team.

''I remember I was in some little tapas restaurant,'' Koepka said. ''There was maybe five people in there, and I can remember eating and watching it unfold.''

It gets worse.

Two years later, the 26-year-old Floridian won the Turkish Airlines Open in his first full season, and he was honored as the European Tour rookie of the year. The awards banquet took place at the end of the year at Wentworth, a celebration of European success.

Just his luck, it was a Ryder Cup year.

Europe was coming off a much easier victory, this time at Gleneagles in Scotland. The team was the toast of the banquet.

''They were all talking about it, and it drove me nuts. I couldn't stand it,'' Koepka said. ''The room was filled with Europeans. They had their whole team, Sir Alex Ferguson was there. It was pretty cool. But I got really tired of watching it.''

At least this time, he'll be in good company. And instead of being in front of a TV in Spain or in a banquet room in England, he'll have golf clubs in his hands at Hazeltine National as the Americans try to reverse two decades of mostly losing.

How he responds is one of the unknowns for the U.S. team, mainly because Koepka is new to all of this. No one doubts his powerful play that put him on a fast track after starting on a slow road. After beating a strong field in Turkey, he won his first PGA Tour event three months later in the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Koepka isn't sure what to expect, so perhaps winning at the rowdiest event on the PGA Tour will help.

''Everyone has told me it's going to be amped up,'' he said of the Ryder Cup, which starts Friday. ''I kind of have this picture of 16 at Waste Management – like that, only everywhere. That's probably the closest thing to it.''

Koepka, who is No. 22 in the world, secured his spot on the team by returning from an ankle injury to tie for fourth in the PGA Championship.

''He's great to pair with anybody, because who wouldn't want to play with Brooks as far as he hits it?'' U.S. captain Davis Love III said. ''Watching Europe celebrate two years ago … really motivated him to make the team. He's going to add a lot of youthful enthusiasm and a lot of power to our team.''

His caddie, Ricky Elliott, is from Northern Ireland. Koepka is close with Rory McIlroy. He has lots of friends in Europe from his three years of playing there, and he wouldn't trade his experiences. But when it came to hearing about the Ryder Cup, it got a little old.

''I'm really excited,'' he said. ''I know my face doesn't show it, but it's hard to get excitement out of me. I went to the beach on Jan. 1 at 8 in the morning and wrote a bunch of goals down, and the Ryder Cup was one of them. That was nice to cross off.''

He has checked off plenty of goals along the way.

The Florida State alum tied with Jordan Spieth in the second stage of PGA Tour qualifying in 2012, but both missed out on advancing. Their routes were entirely different. Spieth received sponsor exemptions on the Web.com Tour in South America, and then cashed in on a sponsor's exemption to the Puerto Rico Open, where he tied for second. He ended the year with a PGA Tour victory, a chance to win the FedEx Cup team and a spot on the Presidents Cup team at age 20.

Koepka got out his passport and traveled more miles that he cares to count.

''Jordan was really talented coming out, and he deserved all that,'' Koepka said. ''I wasn't high-profile. I had a place to play, so I figured I could get from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour to here.''

He already knows what it's like to be the lone rookie. During a Ryder Cup team gathering at the home of the New England Patriots earlier this month, players were going to hit shots to a target at Gillette Stadium. Zach Johnson handed Koepka the bucket of balls and told him it was his job to carry it as the rookie.

''I carried it around for 45 minutes,'' Koepka said. ''I couldn't care less.''