Koepka upbeat, in lead as ESPN Body published

ATLANTA — As Brooks Koepka‘s rise in the world golf continued this year with another major championship victory and the No. 1 ranking, he became more comfortable revealing things about himself and speaking his mind.

Thursday came the ultimate reveal: Koepka’s nude photos in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue were released online.

And in keeping with his own level of comfort, Koepka went out and shot 3-under-par 67 at East Lake Golf Club to tie Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas for the lead at the Tour Championship — which began with a staggered scoring system in the final FedEx Cup playoff event.

“It was fun,” Koepka said of the photo shoot that occurred earlier this year at The Floridian in South Florida. “It’s something that I wanted to do. It’s something that’s so much fun. You see all these other athletes do it. To get chosen for that, you have to be one of the best in your sport. So obviously I’m doing something right on the golf course, and it’s fun.

“Getting naked’s a bit weird, the first time you actually pull that robe off in front of 30, 40 people. It was something I enjoyed. I was looking forward to it for months. It’s something I definitely don’t regret doing. It’s enjoyable to see the pictures and all the hard work I put into it and see the results.”

Koepka, 29, said he’s yet to hear any firsthand reaction from his peers, good-natured or otherwise, casually dropping that “I’ve walked through the locker room naked before.” And he’s fine with whatever comes his way.

“I’ve been asked to do it before and it wasn’t one of the things that I really wanted to do,” Rickie Fowler said. “I figured there would be some sort of hazing in the locker room afterwards. That’s not the reason I didn’t do it by any means or anything like that. It’s all personal preference, personal choice on whether you do it or not.

“I think it takes some balls to do it, literally. I wouldn’t want to stand there naked and take pictures. I think that takes some balls to do what Brooks did.”

“You have to have a good bit of confidence in the first place to stand up there and do it, so good on him,” said Rory McIlroy, whose 66 put him one shot back of the leaders.

One thing Koepka has not been lacking over the past few years is confidence. He’s won four majors going back to the 2017 U.S. Open and has three victories this season, including the PGA Championship and the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

When the subject of slow play came up again recently on the PGA Tour, Koepka stood right up and spoke his mind, challenging officials to penalize him if it would help get the issue to the forefront.

Koepka did have to withstand some criticism earlier in the year as he lost more than 20 pounds in anticipation of the shoot — and it was during the time of the Players Championship.

His game was out of sorts, and Koepka was also ill. “I didn’t feel well, but I’m not using that as an excuse for why I felt so bad,” he said. “At the time, I wasn’t playing good golf, either. That’s not an excuse. I’ve lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of weight. I’m going to do it my way and enjoy the ride.”

A few weeks later, Koepka contended at the Masters, tying for second and finishing a stroke behind winner Tiger Woods. A month later, he won the PGA Championship over Dustin Johnson and was second at the U.S. Open before a tie for fourth at The Open.

Koepka entered the Tour Championship third in the FedEx Cup standings.

“It’s nice to be tied for the last after the first day,” he said. “I’m not very good at getting off to good starts, so I usually never get in that position. But it’s nice. Three more days to grind it out and finish the year strong.”

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