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July 17, 2013

Brooks Koepka: Best American golfer?

(Continued)

"The kid is impressive in lots of ways," said teaching pro Butch Harmon, whose son, Claude, works with Koepka when he's back home in Florida. "He's consistent. He's a fast learner, but he's smart enough not to try to do things on the golf course that he doesn't know how to do. Claude's been raving about his ball-striking for months.

"More impressive is the route he's taking. Lots of guys come out of college and if they don't get through Q-school, they take the most familiar path — the mini-tours back home. Over here," Harmon continued, "nearly every tournament is in a different country, with a different language. Just lining up visas can be a challenge. It shows a lot of maturity in a very short time."

You could say the same about the group Koepka joined for his practice round Tuesday. He and Dustin Johnson played Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler in what's generally acknowledged as the tour's most competitive — and expensive — pre-tournament round.

"That's another thing about him," said Harmon, who counts Johnson among his clients, has worked with Mickelson and tagged along with the group. "When they told Brooks the number (the ante for the match), he didn't flinch."

Whatever the number, it's in Mickelson's pocket now. The left-hander, who won last week at the Scottish Open, made a birdie putt at No. 14 to pull his side with one in the match-play game, then ham-and-egged his way in with Fowler to close the match out at the 17th.

"The chance to pick these guys' brains on how to get around courses like this — where to leave it, different ways to play the wind — is going to make me a better player down the road.

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