KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Despite carrying around one of the biggest chips on his shoulder, Brooks Koepka always is looking for a slight, something to motivate him. And like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods before him, Koepka’s the type that has a long memory.
He won’t have to dig too deep to recall a time that, Phil Mickelson, his foe in the final group of the 103rd PGA Championship, rubbed him the wrong way. Koepka has never forgotten the time his dad took him the Masters as a kid. He was about 8 or 9 years old, which would plant the story in the late 1990s, and young Brooks collected around 50 autographs from players that day. Sneaking into the player’s parking lot helped add to the haul.
“I mean, I pretty much got everybody,” He recalled during his pre-tournament press conference at the 2019 Masters.
Not everybody. A certain player stiffed him.
“I tried to get Phil’s autograph. I was standing by the old range, and somehow found my way kind of right by the parking lot or something like that and asked him for an autograph and he said no, and he turned me down, probably about the only kid Phil’s ever turned down.”
Whenever Koepka has been asked to name his childhood golf idols, he’s ticked off Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. Mickelson? Not so much, though the moment has become one these Ryder Cup teammates have shared a laugh over.
“He doesn’t remember,” Koepka said. “I mean, I can’t believe he doesn’t remember the first time he ever said no to a kid, signing an autograph. I told him, I think in 2014, I think we were playing a practice round at the British Open. I had to tell him. I was like, ‘Listen, man, you stiffed me, and I really didn’t like you for a long time.’ He was typical Phil, right back at me. I shouldn’t have been there (in the parking lot). I’ve got his autograph now.”
While Koepka probably wouldn’t give any quarter to his opponent regardless of the fact, could it be he’s just a little more amped up to play spoiler to Mickelson’s fairytale pursuit of becoming the oldest player to win a major? Just a reminder to all pros, always sign for every kid. They may just grow up and be paired with you in the final round of a major.