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Being Brooks' brother is not easy, but Chase Koepka determined to make a name on his own

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. — After Chase Koepka rolled a 4-foot putt about 2-feet past the 13th hole at the Valspar Championship on Thursday, a volunteer decided to voice his opinion to everyone within earshot about Chase’s game.

“That kid will never make it to Saturday,” he said.

As it turned out, that volunteer would have been wise to adhere to the words on those sticks that read: ‘Quiet Please.’ Because one of those within earshot was Bob Koepka, Chase’s dad, who was not about to let the comment go without a response.

“You want to make a wager on that?” Bob asked.

That man opted not to put his money where his mouth was. And good thing, because volunteering could have gotten expensive.

This story could have been even better if Chase himself had heard the Nick Faldo wannabe. Then, it could be assumed that was all the motivation he needed.

But, so far, Chase is doing just fine on his own, with the emphasis on — on his own.

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Since that hole, Chase has played bogey-free golf on the Copperhead Course, including a 1-under 70 Friday, and enters the weekend at 4-under. Chase’s unusual second round included 17 consecutive pars before dropping a 21-foot birdie putt on No. 9 (his 18th hole) for his lone birdie.

“It’s better to do it with a birdie than a bogey, that’s for sure,” he said about coming within one hole of 18 pars.

Chase is at Valspar on a sponsor exemption. He was expecting to play with his brother and four-time major winner, Brooks, but for the second consecutive tournament in which Chase has played, Brooks, who is recovering from knee surgery, was forced to withdraw.

So, when spectators see a Koepka has advanced to the weekend, it probably is not the Koepka they expected.

But that’s OK with Chase, who understands what it takes to live in the shadow of an older brother who has become known worldwide.

Chase, 27, and his older brother are very tight, but that does not mean Chase is looking to ride his coattails. They live their separate lives, Chase in West Palm Beach and Brooks in Jupiter, and they obviously are in different tax brackets and stages of their careers with Brooks, who was No. 1 in the world for 47 weeks, having won more Tour events (eight) than Chase had played entering this week.

And Chase is comfortable with that.

Still, that doesn’t make it any easier for dad when it sometimes seems as if Chase does not exist to the casual fan.

“There are always the comparisons and then people who say, ‘How come he’s not doing what his brother is doing?’” Bob said. “But the hardest thing is somebody will come up to me and say, ‘You got to be proud of your son.’ And Chase would be standing right next to me, and they don’t even know he plays.”

Bob is proud of his sons, plural. Which is why walking 18 holes, whether at Valspar or a course on the local Minor League Tour is as stressful as walking Pebble Beach or Augusta National.

And if you don’t believe that, you were not standing by the 9th green Friday when that putt dropped and Bob, and the rest of a solid contingent of Chase’s family and friends, turned heads with their cheers.

“There’s a lot of people that still think I’m just a nobody,” Chase said. “That’s all right. That’s their opinion. I know I’m good enough to be out there.

“My brother did everything on his own, and he’s done an amazing job of it. I want to do the same thing. I’m his biggest fan out there. I love seeing him win. That’s been our dream since we were little. It doesn’t change for me. I haven’t done it yet, but my goal is to be out there. I don’t think I’m too far off.”

Chase Koepka

Chase Koepka plays from the bunker on the 4th hole during the second round of the 2021 Valspar Championship. (Photo: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

Chase is right, he isn’t that far. Valspar is Chase’s sixth PGA Tour event in the last 18 months, and he has made the cut in all but one. Although his best finish is a tie for 26th at the 3M Open in July, he shot a 64 Sunday, the low round of the day.

“I’m making a lot of cuts,” said Chase, who finished T-30 at Honda. “I just haven’t quite finished near the top. I’ve had a lot of mid-level finishes. I’m kind of itching to get inside the top 10. Just to be in the hunt with nine or 18 to go.”

Could that be this weekend? Though happy with a bogey-free round, Chase was not happy with the stress he put on his putter. Just five of Chase’s par putts were inside 3-feet. He saved par seven times with putts of 5- to 10-feet.

“I just didn’t have that many opportunities for birdies all day and it was very frustrating,” Chase said. “If I kind of clean it up a little bit … I’m doing all the right things. Just really fortunate my putter stepped up today.”

A lot is riding on a top-10 finish. Chase plans to head to North Carolina Monday to try to qualify for next week’s Wells Fargo Championship. If he’s in the top 10 at Valspar, he automatically qualifies for Wells Fargo.

“He knows he belongs out here,” Bob said. “He knows he’s got the game to be out here. He just has to go through the system to work his way up.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/04/30/chase-koepka-brother-brooks-make-name-on-his-own/

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