Abu Dhabi: Brooks Koepka not concerned at prospect of losing world No 1 status
World No 1 excited to play in Abu Dhabi after three months out with a knee injury that had bothered him since March last year
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 14/01/20 2:18pm
Brooks Koepka has played down the significance of retaining his world No 1 ranking as he prepares to return to action after three months out.
Koepka headlines a heavyweight field at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, his first competitive outing since undergoing treatment on a knee injury that had first surfaced in March last year.
The American managed to play through the problem until aggravating the injury during the CJ Cup in Korea in October, when he admitted to being in "excruciating" pain which forced his withdrawal from the tournament.
Koepka then began intensive treatment to rectify the problem in his left knee, and he has declared his rehabilitation a success as he looks forward to getting back into competition in the European Tour's first Rolex Series event of the year.
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But he insisted he would not be unduly concerned if he was to be dethroned as world No 1 ahead of the Masters in April, and he also had no issue with Rory McIlroy's belief that he was the best player in the world on his day.
"He should believe that," said Koepka of his closest rival in the world rankings. "Everybody playing should think that. I mean, if you don't think you're the best player, what's the point?
"Everybody comes here trying to win. That's the goal. If you don't believe you're the best deep down, then there's something wrong with you. You might as well quit.
"It's nice to be world No 1. I think there is a little bit of everybody that wants to be world No 1. Otherwise, why is it a competition? But the only thing I'm looking forward to in the prep leading up to the Masters is playing good and trending in the right direction going to Augusta.
"I haven't played very much over the break, and I'm coming here trying to play my way into it. I've had a few weeks of practise where I feel good because usually I'm over here trying to find it. Having a little bit of practise feels good, and hopefully, being out of competition for three months, I'm just trying to get back in the swing of competition.
"I think that's important, to build your way up to Augusta. I think that's pretty much what every player tries to do. You hear guys talking about it from when the year ends, how they are trying to build up to Augusta and I think that's the way everybody goes about it."
Koepka underwent stem cell treatment in his troublesome knee to alleviate the injury which first became apparent in March, but an unfortunate slip during the tournament in Korea led to an extended spell on the sidelines.
"I miss competition," he added. "I've missed showing up to an event preparing for something, because I haven't had anything to prepare for. When you have three months off, it's not fun, I know that. But it makes me appreciate the game more every time and hopefully I don't have anymore of those situations.
"But it's exciting to get out there and go play again. Last year, there wasn't much practise because I just couldn't do it with my knee. I think everybody saw it on my team towards the end of the year. I couldn't get on my left side, I couldn't squat down in a bunker, I struggled to get down and read a putt. Thankfully that's in the past now.
"I've had problems with it since March and dealt with it the whole year until I had stem cell done on my knee and it felt fine all the way to Korea. Everything felt good, and then in Korea, I just slipped and re-tore it and the kneecap had moved into the fat pad, which is excruciating.
"It was a lot of pain, and it's not fun. So we flew back on Saturday and I started rehab on the Monday. And I'm still doing it now, still doing a lot of rehab. Before gym, after the gym, getting in there. Been trying to make sure everything feels right.
"I'll be honest with you. It doesn't feel the same as my right knee and it probably won't for a while. But it does feel stable, which leaving Korea and all the way up to about a month and a half ago, it just didn't feel stable. It felt like it could go either way. It could go left, out, back, it could go any way."