Koepka poised to follow in countryman Uihlein's footsteps

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 17, 2014 2:21 AM

By Tony Jimenez

BELEK Turkey (Reuters) - Europe's rookie of the year award was launched in 1960 and had never been won by an American until Peter Uihlein took the prize 12 months ago -- now it looks like there will be two U.S. success stories in a row.

Brooks Koepka's maiden victory at the Turkish Airlines Open on Sunday has put him in pole position for the accolade and the 24-year-old said it would be great to follow in Uihlein's footsteps.

"It would be nice to have him hand that trophy to me," Koepka told reporters after a seven-under 65 secured a one-shot victory over Britain's Ian Poulter at the penultimate European event of the season.

Koepka said it was remarkable how much he and his compatriot had achieved in their short time on tour.

"It's unbelievable," he added. "He came over maybe five or six months before me. My goal was always to come overseas and take advantage of it."

It took a few near-misses for Koepka to realize his potential but when his chance came in Turkey he grabbed it with both hands.

The American said an incident in the final round proved to him that his previous failures had not been in vain.

"I caught a bad break on 15," he explained. "There was a sprinkler head or something and I was on a downslope for my second shot.

"It was almost impossible to get to the pin, I hit a tree and came up short but I didn't react."

Koepka ignored his misfortune, chipped to 20 feet and sank a nerve-tingling putt to retain his one-stroke lead.

"Maybe in the past I would have gotten a little upset and wouldn't have handled it properly," he said. "This time I just moved on.

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"I don't want to say I was a bit giddy or anxious in the past but I was definitely more calm today than I've ever been."

Koepka has been recognized as one of the hottest young properties in golf for some time and the cheque for 930,000 euros ($1.17 million) he pocketed on Sunday went a long way to erasing the memories of his near misses.

"I wouldn't say it was much of a problem before, it was maybe a case of pressing too hard," he said. "I wanted that first win so bad but this time I just let it come."

(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)