SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- It's not confidential when you win a major. And when you repeat, it's legendary. Brooks Koepka became only the third man since World War II ended to defend his U.S. Open title. Ricky Elliott was on the bag for both of Koepka's victories. It's major championship Caddie "Not So" Confidential!
As Elliott carried the bag to the scoring area Sunday, I asked him how this one felt and he kept repeating the same thing over and over, almost like he was in a dreamy trance: "Unbelievable ... this is unbelievable ... just unbelievable." Then I caught up with him later after taking care of official business into the scoring area.
Collins: OK, homey, what's it feel like?
Elliott: Unbelievable. Just as good as last year. I can't really think right now. (Laughs.) I am gonna try those Heinekens again; they seemed to work last year! (Laughs again.)
Collins: If I would have told you last year after [Koepka's wrist injury] that he would repeat, you would have said what?
Elliott: Our goal was to get back to the U.S. Open. He recovered quickly; he did all his work at home, what he had to do to get fit and healthy again. You know, we were able to play three or four weeks before the U.S. Open and his game just came back pretty good. If you would have said to me in March that we'd be playing in the U.S. Open, I would have bit my hand off for it! To win it again is just incredible.
Collins: For you, what was the key hole on Sunday?
Elliott: I think 11, in the end. He birdied 10 and it looked like we went two ahead, and then he pulled a wedge shot on 11 and it hit the bank and went into the heavy rough. At that point, we literally could've played tennis there all day! He hit a good first chip, which was never going to stay on the green, over in the bunker and got up and down for a 4. After that, he holed a few crucial putts. ... We got a really bad lie on 14 and he hacked it out. He did well to even get it out and then he's holed another 10-footer there. I guess when you're going to win some of these things, you've got to hole some of those.
Collins: Was there ever a time out there when you thought to yourself, "We can do this!?"
Elliott: Well, obviously Tommy [Fleetwood] posted that number on the board early [shooting 63 to finish 2 over par] -- that was the number I was looking at. I was like, "If we can get to plus-1 and stay there, we'll probably win," because [the course] firmed up again. It got fast, it got hard. I don't know what Tommy was smoking, but 7 under is an unbelievable score.
Collins: Were the greens different when you started on Sunday?
Elliott: Yes, yes. Really firmed up; the back nine was a lot firmer than the front. Clubs were stopping on the front nine. It didn't get out of control like yesterday, but it definitely got harder.
Collins: What did you feel like [Sunday] when you got to the course after what you all went through Saturday?
Elliott: (Thinks for a second.) I just thought there were 20 guys that could win this and they're all really good players. We just had to stay patient, try and shoot a score and not worry about what anybody else shot. But, for some reason, when we see Tommy making birdie after birdie after birdie, then Patrick [Reed] was there -- there were a helluva lot of good players coming right at us. We just kept our heads down and tried to take every shot as it came and see where we ended up, you know?
Collins: How is this one different than last year?
Elliott: I guess when you win the first one, it's like such a surprise, because to win a major is like ... it just happens for some people. But I think it's validation that he is one of the best players in the world. It's not easy to win one; but if you win two, I think it will feel even better.
Collins: Two in a row for the caddie, too. I guess that means you're one of the best caddies in the world, too?
Elliott: (Smiles.) Uhh, I wouldn't go that far! I've got a pretty good player.
Another reporter walks over, asks for Elliott to elaborate on Koepka's growth as a player.
Elliott: He's just a real strong mental guy, he's unflappable. When he hits a bad shot, he never gives me any grief. He gets on with it. I mean, to this day, if we hit one over the back [of the green], he'd probably just turn around to me and go, "Well, I hit that quite a bit hard." Which is unusual for a good athlete or player. He takes a huge responsibility in what he's doing out there. Makes my job very easy.