Latest step in Koepka's fast rise to stardom: new friendship with Woods

Brooks Koepka
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Brooks Koepka is Tiger Woods' neighbor in Florida, but got to play with the world No. 1 for the first time at the PGA Championship last week.
Associated Press

Series: European Tour

Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | 3:17 p.m.

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Brooks Koepka lives down the road from Tiger Woods, though the two don't usually run into each other on the course.

The 23-year-old American chose Europe's Challenge Tour as his route to golf's top levels. He earned promotion to the European Tour in June.

With a special exemption from The PGA of America, he teed off in the PGA Championship and made the cut at a major for the first time in three tries. Grabbing a bite to eat after his third round Saturday, he saw on TV that Tiger Woods was at 4 over, the same score as Koepka. He hoped it stayed that way so the two could play together in the final round.

Sure enough, Koepka got to meet Woods for the first time on the putting green Sunday before they played 18 holes together. Koepka shot a 7-over 77, while Woods had a 70.

''I think everyone my age admired him growing up,'' said Koepka, who went to Florida State. ''He's the reason I'm playing. It was a bunch of fun to play with him. Nice guy. Hell of a player.''

New to the experience of the large crowds hovering off every shot of Woods' group, Koepka bogeyed three of his first four holes then made a triple bogey on No. 5.

''It's hard that first tee,'' he said. ''That was pretty neat. Just hearing everybody, it was unbelievable the people shouting his name. Obviously, I have seen it growing up and things like that, but when you are actually out there it was definitely a little different.''

Koepka lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and is considering joining Woods' home club, The Medalist, a topic they chatted about on the course Sunday. Koepka had seen the world's top-ranked golfer at the club a couple of times in the past, but ''obviously he had no clue who I am.''

Now he knows.

''Really talented. Good kid,'' Woods said.

''It's good to see,'' he added about Koepka's ascension to the European Tour. ''Good, old-fashioned work pays off, and he should be proud of it.''