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Koepka gets major upgrade in Europe, another major

Tuesday - 6/25/2013, 3:30pm  ET

DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

Brooks Koepka played six straight weeks in six countries, knowing only that he would be flying home to Florida on Tuesday for a break he desperately needed.

He just didn't realize how much different the road map would be when he gets back to work.

Koepka is another young American who's taking the European route, and the payoff was measured in more than euros. The 23-year-old from Florida State won a Challenge Tour event in Scotland on Sunday, his third win of the season that gave him an instant promotion to the European Tour.

Still running on fumes, he took an early morning flight Monday from Scotland to London, drove straight to Sunningdale Golf Club and shot rounds of 69-65 for the low score among nine players who qualified for the British Open at Muirfield.

"Scotland was awesome. There was a lot of motivation there to get that third win before I headed back to the States," Koepka said Monday night. "And then the qualifier, I honestly don't know how I did it. I was running on two or three hours of sleep. I was thoroughly exhausted. Adrenaline or something took over. But as soon as I got off the golf course, I was done."

Instead of returning to a Challenge Tour event in Switzerland or Italy, he will play alongside Phil Mickelson and a host of other stars at Castle Stuart for the Scottish Open, his first event as a full European Tour member. Then, he will drive south to Muirfield for his second major championship.

One item on the agenda while he's home is to sit down with agent Blake Smith at Hambric Sports and figure out a schedule the rest of the year.

"Just getting on the European Tour is big in itself," Koepka said. "I get to play with some of the best players in the world, and it will be nice to have some feedback with Peter, who's someone I really enjoy being around."

That would be Peter Uihlein, his roommate in south Florida, and someone who knows these ropes. Uihlein also started his pro career on the smaller Challenge Tour in Europe, and he won the Madeira Island Open last month to secure his European Tour card.

One of the house rules in Florida is that whoever wins a tournament has to buy a jet ski. Koepka and Uihlein won two weeks apart in May, and Koepka has added two more titles since.

"We're going to have a whole fleet," Koepka said.

Koepka and Uihlein have known each other since junior golf. Both failed to make it through Q-school in America and Europe -- "Struggled at the wrong time," Koepka said -- and thought the best way to improve was playing a steady diet of tournaments on the Challenge Tour instead of trying to Monday qualify on the Web.com Tour in America or get lucky with a sponsor exemption.

"I think guys get caught up trying to do Monday qualifiers, and there's a lot of disappointment," Koepka said. "You can shoot 66 and go home, and you don't build on the rounds. Anybody can have four good days. I thought my best option was to come over here. I think it will make me a more well-rounded player. ... I don't think Europe is for everyone. But it's worked well for me."

Depending on how the next month goes, they are closing in on the top 100 in the world and would have a shot at the PGA Championship.

Uihlein is at No. 121. Koepka is at No. 122.

"Yeah, I know," Koepka said with a laugh when asked about the world ranking. "I already heard about it from him on the range."

___

THE KING AND STRANNY: Arnold Palmer has 62 wins on the PGA Tour, seven major championships and the 1954 U.S. Amateur. Along with all those trophies, one of his most prized possessions from his career in golf is a Vicuna top coat from Frank Stranahan.

Of course, it's the story that makes the coat.

It belonged to Frank Stranahan, the amateur great who died Sunday at age 90. Of their many practice rounds, one that stands out was Palmer and Dow Finsterwald against Stranahan and Al Besselink in 1957.

"We played 18 holes and we beat him for a couple hundred bucks," Palmer said Tuesday. "Frank said, 'Are you going to give us a chance to get even?' And I said, 'Sure, what do you want to play for?' We were hassling over that and I said, 'Frank, you have a top coat that I really love. I'll put up whatever dollars I have and play you for it.'"

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