Bryson DeChambeau came for Brooks Koepka's abs and the world number one did not let him get away unscathed.

Koepka is regarded as the most muscular player in golf but DeChambeau, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour, aimed a dig at his physique, which was laid bare in ESPN magazine's Body Issue last year.

DeChambeau, a Southern Methodist University graduate majoring in physics, has been working with a muscle activation specialist and spoken of his desire to become "massive".

When asked about Koepka's conditioning on his Twitch stream, DeChambeau said: "I don't know if his genetics even make him look good, to be honest. I mean [in] the Body Issue he didn't have any abs, I'll tell you that. I got some abs."

Unsurprisingly it did not take too long for the four-time major champion to fire back with a stinging barb.

Alongside a photo of the trophies from his triumphs at two US PGA Championships and two U.S. Opens uploaded to Twitter, he wrote: "You were right @b_dechambeau I am 2 short of a 6 pack!"

DeChambeau's best performance at a major was coming tied-15th at the 2016 U.S. Open.

English golfer Eddie Pepperell was impressed by Koepka's comeback and summed up the exchange nicely.

"This is why you just don't go after the No.1 golfer in the world. Christ," world number 55 Pepperell tweeted.

World number one Brooks Koepka shot a blemish-free 66 on his comeback and was two shots off the lead after the first round at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Koepka was playing in his first tournament since October, when he aggravated a knee injury, and the four-time major winner was able to quickly find his rhythm in the United Arab Emirates.

Having started with a birdie at the 10th, Koepka was four under at the turn before making further gains at the second and third.

The American was unable to pick up further strokes on his final six holes, though, and he ended the day two adrift of co-leaders Shaun Norris and Renato Paratore, both of whom shot eight-under 64s.

"It feels good to be back," Koepka told Sky Sports.

"I've missed the competition, obviously, and I played really solid.

"Missed a few putts there early if I really want to pick it apart but drove it really well, controlled the ball flight and controlled distances really well and that's what you have got to do out here."

While the closing stages of Koepka's round were solid rather than spectacular, Norris and Paratore both shot up the leaderboard by finishing with a flourish.

Norris picked up seven shots in nine holes from the eighth while Paratore carded four successive birdies to finish.

Italian Paratore, who has one previous European Tour win to his name, lost in a play-off at his most recent tournament in Mauritius while South African Norris has had nine top-10 finishes in his last 14 events worldwide.

Spanish duo Rafa Cabrera Bello and Sergio Garcia sat in the group at five under while Branden Grace, a winner in his native South Africa last week, was among those a stroke further back.

Brooks Koepka is hopeful his knee problems are finally behind him having admitted he was "hurt all year" in 2019 despite being world number one.

Back in October Koepka revealed he had undergone stem-cell treatment to repair a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee, with the American ruling himself out of the CJ Cup and Presidents Cup at the end of 2019.

He will make his comeback at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week confident that those knee issues are behind him.

Koepka won the 2019 US PGA Championship - his fourth major title - and has been world number one for 44 straight weeks, but he revealed he has had to make changes to his inner circle after conceding he handled his injury poorly last year.

"My knee feels fine right now," he told Omnisport.

"It's been a work in progress. I tore it and then re-tore it again in [South] Korea [in October]. I've been in rehab since the Monday after, so it's been a grind.

"I've changed a few people on the team and I'm trying to make it where this kind of thing doesn't happen.

"I handled it wrong all year, I was hurt all year and I just didn't tell anybody. Looking back at it, it wasn't handled properly.

"There were things that I needed to do to take care of it and I didn't do that. I'm not blaming anybody, it's all on myself.

"I just didn't have the people that I have around me now, where I can really change going forward."

Given he has spent so long away from the course, Koepka is paying little heed to his status as the game's best player.

The Masters, an event Koepka has not won, is the first major of the year and the 29-year-old hopes to have rediscovered his touch by then.

"World number one is always nice, but at the same time I just need to play," Koepka added.

"Obviously I've had a lot of time off and that hasn't helped the confidence. I've just got to play.

"We've still got three months [until the Masters], I'm usually a little rusty about this time anyway, so hopefully I can play a few rounds and get a few tournaments under my belt and we'll be just fine."

 

Brooks Koepka was talking ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, where they were predicting the future of the game and how it could change over the next 10 years. They were joined by members of the HSBC Future Falcons junior golf programme - an initiative which has introduced nearly 80,000 children to golf since its launch.

Brooks Koepka feels everyone in golf will benefit if Tiger Woods can stay fit for the duration of 2020.

Other than his PGA Tour record-equalling 82nd win at the Zozo Championship in Japan, which arrived in October, Woods struggled for form and fitness in the aftermath of his sensational win at The Masters last year.

He had knee surgery in August after missing the cut at the US PGA Championship and The Open, as well as finishing in a tie for 21st at the U.S. Open.

Koepka, who himself suffered a serious knee injury in 2019, hopes Woods will be back to his best and knows his fellow American is still capable of achieving serious success at the age of 44.

"Hopefully his body holds up because it's good for the game, it's good for golf, it's good for everybody," Koepka said to Omnisport after being asked about Woods' prospects for this year and beyond.

"It all depends on his health, I don't know how he's feeling. I'm not in his body. But if he's healthy obviously he can win, we all know how good he is, I don't think that's in question. 

"But it all depends on his body. If he feels good he can definitely compete, he can win, there is no question."

Woods will make his return to the course at next week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, while Koepka will open his campaign at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on Thursday.

That European Tour appearance will be four-time major winner Koepka's first outing since he withdrew from the CJ Cup with his knee injury in October.
 

Koepka was talking ahead of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, where they were predicting the future of the game and how it could change over the next 10 years. They were joined by members of the HSBC Future Falcons junior golf programme - an initiative which has introduced nearly 80,000 children to golf since its launch.

When the 2010s began, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka had a combined major tally of zero.

Tiger Woods boasted 14 but was weathering the storm of a very public scandal and about to endure a barren spell almost as remarkable as his reign of dominance.

The holders of golf's four most prestigious titles were Angel Cabrera, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink and YE Yang.

Meanwhile, the Ryder Cup resided in the United States, claimed in dominant fashion against Nick Faldo's beleaguered European side at Valhalla. 

Reflecting now on the 11 majors shared by McIlroy, Spieth and Koepka; the stunning return to glory enjoyed by Woods at the 2019 Masters; the relative obscurity of Cabrera, Glover, Cink and Yang; and Europe winning four of the past five Ryder Cups, it becomes apparent just how drastically the golfing landscape has changed.

It ought to be enough to warn anyone off making predictions for the 10 years ahead, but Omnisport's golf experts Russell Greaves and Peter Hanson have gone ahead and done it anyway.

 

CAN TIGER CATCH JACK?

The facts: Woods' victory at Augusta earned him a fifth green jacket and 15th major, leaving him three behind Jack Nicklaus.

RG: This is one of the longest-running debates in sport, up there with the Messi-Ronaldo argument in football.

I suspect in both cases I will take a different view from my colleague (it's Messi, hands down), as I'm of the opinion that Tiger's long pursuit of Nicklaus' haul of 18 majors will prove in vain. He spent most of the 2010s in decline and has left it too late to pull out of that nosedive.

In mid-May 2024 he will hit a significant landmark in becoming older than the oldest major winner in history – the 1968 US PGA Championship victor Julius Boros, who was 48 years, four months and 18 days old. Time is against Tiger and even he doesn't have a club in the bag to fashion a way out of the hazard that is old age. 

PH: Not unlike the Messi-Ronaldo debate (for which Ronaldo is the obvious answer), this discussion has become a little weary and repetitive in recent years.

But here's the thing, we're not discussing your average athlete. This isn't a mere a golfing mortal. Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-generation talent, one who had been consistently written off before his glorious Augusta triumph in April. Such an achievement did admittedly appear beyond him.

Never again should we make the mistake of saying a target is beyond Woods' reach. Time may be against him but if any player is capable of winning a major in their fifties it's Tiger. Simply, Woods can achieve the unthinkable over the next decade.

RORY'S GLORY DAYS OVER?

The facts: McIlroy won his fourth major in 2014 but has not tasted victory since.

RG: It speaks volumes of McIlroy's quality that people look upon his CV – featuring four major wins and 95 weeks at the summit of the world rankings – and consider him to have underachieved.

It is a compliment and insult all at once; an emphatic underlining of how high expectations are, and also a crude dismissal of his already lofty achievements.

But in the decade to come, McIlroy will enjoy a resurgence in majors and cement his place among the all-time greats. 

PH: When McIlroy won major number four, and a second US PGA Championship, at Valhalla in August 2014, you would have been laughed at hysterically for suggesting he would not win another before the close of the decade.

And yet, for one reason or another, it has not quite clicked for McIlroy since. There have been near misses, plenty of 'what ifs' and no shortage of frustrations. We have seen a much more serene McIlroy over the past few years and you do wonder if some of the edge that made him such a formidable talent is gone.

Still, McIlroy is a phenomenal competitor. It is hard to imagine he will not again be a major winner over the next 10 years. But you sense it may be a return of six or seven career majors rather than the double-digit tally many previously predicted.

WHO WILL ENJOY RYDER CUP SUPREMACY?

The facts: Team Europe have claimed eight of the previous 10 Ryder Cups and won the 2018 edition by seven points.

RG: Thomas Bjorn's Europe produced a superb performance to win the Ryder Cup at Le Golf National, but do not expect to see similar scenes again any time soon.

That result in France represented a shock that is not likely to be repeated. Team USA boast far greater strength in depth and how much longer can the likes of Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter continue to defy their relatively lowly ranking to deliver the goods on this stage?

If the USA lacked anything in 2018, it was the sense of togetherness so evident within the hosts, but with that lesson now learned the harsh way they will be raring to go at Whistling Straits and in the tournaments to come this decade, three of which will be Stateside. 

PH: Every time we reach a Ryder Cup it seems as though Europe are written off before a ball has even been struck off a tee. And yet, last year, it was again the Americans preparing for an ugly post-mortem.

There is something about this glorious competition that stirs a response in the Europeans that the Americans just simply cannot seem to replicate – or certainly not on the same consistent basis.

Sure, the likes of Garcia and Poulter are nearing the end of their famous journeys, but the heroics of Francesco Molinari and Tommy Fleetwood in Paris - coupled with the fact the likes of Justin Rose, McIlroy and Jon Rahm have plenty of golf left in them - means there remains a strong nucleus. Home or away, Europe will still have the upper hand when it comes to the Ryder Cup in the 2020s.

AMERICA v REST OF THE WORLD: WHO WILL WIN THE MOST MAJORS?

The facts: Three of the four majors are held by Americans. The most recent US clean sweep was in 1982, while 1994 was the last year that no American won one. In the 2010s, it finished America 21-19 rest of the world. 

RG: There will be another American lockout of the majors in the coming decade, quite probably more than one. It has been a close call in the previous two years and the past eight majors in the US have been won by home hopes.

Consider the five most recent non-Americans who spoiled the party – Danny Willett, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari and Shane Lowry – what odds on any of those repeating the feat? I'll accept Molinari as a 50-50 but wouldn't back any of the others.

With Brooks Koepka (more on him later) such a keen collector of majors, Tiger still prowling (I said he wouldn't get to 18, but I fancy him for another Masters title), Patrick Reed a likely repeat winner, Dustin Johnson surely destined to win another and Justin Thomas a shoo-in, I see a lot of silverware finding its home in the United States.

PH: The Ryder Cup is one thing but the majors are a completely different animal and in that regard the Americans are locked in to dominate.

In each of the previous three years, the United States were missing just once victor to complete a sweep and I just feel it is a feat that is guaranteed to be achieved at some stage in the next decade.

There is enough talent in McIlroy, Rahm, Fleetwood and Rose to keep things close but, I have to agree with Russ here, the strength in depth possessed by America means there is only one outcome to this question.

 

CAN KOEPKA KEEP UP THE PACE?

The facts: Koepka triumphed four times in eight major outings from the 2017 U.S. Open to the 2019 US PGA Championship, while by the end of the latter year his record showed a T6, T4, T2 and outright second-placed finish across the sport's quartet of headline events.

RG: It would be fascinating to see anyone make the case for Koepka failing to add to his impressive major haul, and it's not something I'm willing to attempt.

The guy is a stone-cold winner when it comes to the big tournaments and nothing about him – from his technical brilliance to his mental toughness – suggests he will go off the rails.

He is one victory away from tying with the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Phil Mickelson, and two away from Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino – he will surpass them all.

PH: I have to start my answer here with a caveat. You will not find a bigger Brooks Koepka fanboy in the world than me. I simply love the guy. He is someone who is just unashamedly himself and why would you not be with the success he has had?

What is remarkable is the way Koepka came from relative obscurity to become the best in the world. While McIlroy, Spieth, Thomas and countless others were making claims to be the dominant force, Koepka – who cut his teeth on the European Tour, a rarity for an American – came up on the rails to steal a march on more well-known and, some would argue, marketable names.

But that chip on the shoulder is what I admire most about him and what makes him so difficult to beat. At this stage, I genuinely believe it is just a question of how many majors he will win. I don't think it is a stretch in any way to say he will have at least 10 in 2029.

WHO WILL BE THE FIRST-TIME MAJOR WINNERS?

The facts: There are 40 majors in any given decade and in the 2010s there were 25 first-time winners.

RG: As the numbers above suggest, there is a lot of scope for maiden major winners in the space of 10 years, but let's pick out four who are pretty much nailed on. 

Tony Finau has got everything required to join the club and I'm confident his compatriot Rickie Fowler will finally get off the mark too.

On the European side, Jon Rahm will follow in the footsteps of fellow Spaniards Seve and Sergio, while Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood is also a safe bet.

PH: This is always a fun question and one where you can look like the fount of all knowledge or end up with egg splattered all over your face.

Continuing a theme of predicted American dominance, I think the most obvious candidate to break their duck is Xander Schauffele, a man who has four top-five finishes and another inside the top 10 to his name.

Compatriot Patrick Cantlay is another I expect to see win one of golf's big four, while Bryson DeChambeau and Finau are outside bets. Rahm has all the makings of a major winner too, I just hope it doesn't take him as long as it did Sergio to become one. I also see Fleetwood and Matt Fitzpatrick becoming Open champions.

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the Presidents Cup with a knee injury and been replaced by Rickie Fowler.

World number one Koepka had been a doubt since dropping out of last month's CJ Cup at Nine Bridges but was named in Tiger Woods' United States line-up for December's team event in Melbourne.

The four-time major winner revealed he had undergone a stem cell procedure on his left knee during his off-season break following a partially torn patella tendon.

And on Wednesday the 29-year-old announced he would not be competing in what would have been his second Presidents Cup.

"I am announcing my withdrawal from the US Presidents Cup team because of my knee injury," Koepka said in a statement released by the PGA Tour. 

"I notified captain Tiger Woods that despite constant medical care and rehab, I am not able to play golf at this time. I consider it to be a high honour to be part of the 2019 team and I regret not being able to compete."

Woods added: "Brooks and I talked and he's disappointed that he won't be able to compete.

"I told him to get well soon, and that we're sorry he won't be with us in Australia. He would clearly be an asset both on the course and in the team room."

Fowler appeared at the event in 2015 and 2017, winning both times, and is excited to join a 12-man team that features playing captain Woods.

"When I heard Brooks wasn't going to be ready to play, I was bummed for him and the team," he said.

"Then I got a call from both Brooks and Tiger. I was humbled and excited to be given the chance. These team events have been some of the most memorable weeks of my career.

"To be picked by Tiger to compete with him and the rest of the team is very special. It is impossible to replace the world's number one but I can assure my team-mates and American golf fans that I will be prepared and ready to do my part to bring home the Presidents Cup."

The USA have beaten their International rivals in each of the last seven editions of the biennial tournament. 

Rory McIlroy admitted Brooks Koepka had a point when the world number one said he did not view the Northern Irishman as a rival, but did not appreciate being reminded about his major drought.

Last week Koepka, winner of four majors over the past two years, dismissed the notion of McIlroy being one of his nearest challengers for golf's biggest prizes.

"I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn't won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry," Koepka had said.

McIlroy is also a four-time major winner but it has been five years since his most recent triumph at the US PGA Championship, so he could not argue with Koepka's assessment.

"What Brooks [Koepka] said wasn't wrong," McIlroy told GolfTV at a skins event in Japan.

"I mean, he's been the best player in the world the last couple of years - four majors.

"I don't think he had to remind me that I haven't won one in a while."

McIlroy did pip Koepka to be named the PGA Tour Player of the Year last month, and he insisted the American's blunt comments had not caused a rift between the pair.

"I love Brooks, he's a great guy," added McIlroy, who is ranked second in the world.

"He's obviously super-competitive, like we all are. I can see where he's coming from.

"I think if you take what Brooks said out of context then it can become this big thing that it's become. But Brooks and I are good, we're good friends."

McIlroy was one of four men involved in a skins event in Japan ahead of the Zozo Championship – the first official PGA Tour tournament of the season, which begins on Thursday.

He finished the tournament in third place, behind winner Jason Day and second-placed Tiger Woods, with Hideki Matsuyama coming fourth.

Brooks Koepka has withdrawn from the CJ Cup due to a knee injury.

Reigning champion Koepka, who last won at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational in July, was even par through his first two rounds at Nine Bridges, located on Jeju Island in South Korea.

Prior to the 2019-20 season the four-time major winner had stem cell-treatment to repair a partially torn patella tendon in his left knee.

He missed the cut at the Shriners Hospital for Children Open two weeks ago – his first tournament since returning.

It is unclear how serious Koepka's injury is or when he will be back on the course.

Justin Thomas went into round three of the CJ Cup at the top of the leaderboard and with a two-shot lead.

Justin Thomas earned a two-stroke lead with a sizzling performance at the halfway stage of the CJ Cup in South Korea on Friday.

American star Thomas used a bogey-free nine-under-par 63 to surge to the top of the leaderboard following the second round.

Thomas started his day with four successive birdies and finished with nine in total, including one at the last as he catapulted himself eight positions into the lead at 13 under through 36 holes.

Winner of the PGA Tour tournament – which is being played outside of the United States this year – in 2017, Thomas leads An Byeong-hun and Danny Lee heading into the third round.

Local hope An (69) and New Zealand's Lee (66) are tied for second at the Nine Bridges Golf Club on Jeju Island.

An carried a one-shot lead into the second round but the South Korean lost his spot at the front of the queue following two bogeys and five birdies, while Lee improved to 11 under but he could have ended the day a stroke better off if not for a bogey at the 18th.

Emiliano Grillo (66) and former world number one Jordan Spieth (65) are four shots off the pace ahead of Saturday's penultimate round.

Spieth was a big mover at the CJ Cup, with the three-time major champion climbing 25 positions into a tie for fourth, thanks in part to back-to-back birdies to end the day.

The American almost aced the 17th after his tee shot fell just short of the hole, highlighting a fine display from Spieth.

Jason Day struggled as the Australian's second-round 73 saw him drop down to five under, while defending champion Brooks Koepka also had a round to forget.

Looking to defend his title, Koepka was unable to back up his opening-round 69 after shooting a three-over-par 75 – a round that included five bogeys and left him even par.

Local hope An Byeong-hun holds a one-shot lead after round one of the CJ Cup.

The South Korean shot an eight-under 64 on the opening day at Nine Bridges to hold a slender lead over Chilean Joaquin Niemann, with Australian Jason Day one stroke further back. 

Americans Charley Hoffman and Charles Howell III are among the chasing pack at five-under, having spent most of the day challenging at the top of the leaderboard.

Defending champion and world number one Brooks Koepka had something of a frustrating round but nailed an eagle on the 18th to finish at three-under.

The opening day belonged to An, though, as he finished with eight birdies – including four on the back nine – to move into the lead.

Only Niemann bettered An's run at the back end of Nine Bridges with five birdies, including two on holes 17 and 18.

Brooks Koepka insists he does not have a rivalry with Rory McIlroy because the Northern Irishman has not won a major since 2014.

World number one Koepka has enjoyed a phenomenal run in golf's major events over recent years, claiming victory at the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens and 2018 and 2019 US PGA Championships.

In 2019, as well as winning the US PGA, he finished tied second at the Masters, second at the U.S. Open and tied fourth at The Open Championship.

McIlory, ranked number two in the world, finished last season by claiming the FedEx Cup and was named the PGA Tour's player of the year – voted for by his fellow professionals.

But the 30-year-old's wait for a fifth major now stands at five years, dating back to his triumph at the 2014 PGA Championship.

Speaking ahead of his CJ Cup defence, Koepka mischievously offered a reminder of this when the prospect of a rivalry with McIlroy was discussed.

"I've been out here for, what, five years. Rory hasn’t won a major since I’ve been on the PGA Tour. So I just don't view it as a rivalry," Koepka said, as per AFP.

"I'm not looking at anybody behind me. I'm number one in the world. I've got open road in front of me. I'm not looking in the rearview mirror, so I don't see it as a rivalry.

"You know if the fans do [call it a rivalry], then that's on them and it could be fun."

Koepka made sure to point out he remains a huge admirer of McIlroy's game and suggested his stance on rivalries might have more to do with golf as a sport in general.

"Look, I love Rory. He's a great player and he's fun to watch," he added. "But it's just hard to believe there's a rivalry in golf. I just don't see it."

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