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Koepka eyes 3M title, then maiden start in Northern Ireland

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Brooks Koepka has played all over the world on circuits ranging from the PGA Tour to the Challenge Tour. He’s won events in Turkey, Italy, Spain and South Korea, but he’s never played in Northern Ireland – or anywhere in Ireland – where this month’s Open Championship will be contested.

He’s probably not alone in that, though, as The Open hasn’t been played in Northern Ireland since 1951. But don’t color Koepka worried, because Royal Portrush was his caddie Ricky Elliot’s home course growing up, giving him the best asset he could ask for pulling his clubs.

“I hope he knows that golf course like the back of his hand,” Koepka said ahead of this week’s 3M Open in Minnesota. “He knows that golf course probably better than anybody other than [Graeme McDowell], would be the only one.”

This will be Koepka's final tuneup before the season's final major. He traditionally likes to play the week before the U.S. Open and PGA Championships, the two majors he's combined to win four times. He occasionally plays the week before the Masters, but has never played the week before an Open Championship. The reason? Acclimation.

“I know a bunch of guys like to play the week before," he said. "I just want to get adjusted over there a little bit early, so it makes it a little bit easier."

Full-field tee times from the 3M Open

So, he’ll tee it up this week at TPC Twin Cities for the 3M Open as his final competitive run-through before the peg hits the ground when it counts in Ireland.

Koepka is looking for his first Open win, having already won two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships – including the Wanamaker Trophy this year – at just 29 years old.

We’ve all heard the flack Koepka has received for not bringing the same mentality, intensity and golf game to regular Tour events as he brings to majors. During his most recent start at the Travelers Championship, Koepka said he was "dead," and "fried" from the exhaustion of routinely being in major contention. So, what kind of mentality is Koepka bringing to Blaine, Minn.?

“This week it will be just trying to win a golf tournament, that’s the only thing I’m here to do,” Koepka said. “I want to get reps in this week and feel confident going in[to The Open].”

While Northern Ireland will be a new experience for Koepka, playing in Minnesota is not. He competed in the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National, just 42 miles northwest of this week's stop, which is set to be a tough test for pros at almost 7,500 yards and a par 71. But that’s just how Koepka likes it.

“[Tournament director Hollis Cavner] told me it was a big hitter’s golf course and that’s what I like,” Koepka said. “It’s a longer golf course, I can hit driver and take advantage of it and kind of cut some corners, and I think that will be a big advantage this week.”