Elliott on cloud nine as Koepka goes back to back at US Open

Elliott on cloud nine as Koepka goes back to back at US Open
Brooks Koepka shakes hands with his caddie Ricky Elliott on the 18th green after they won their second consecutive U.S. Open during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018.  (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

Brooks Koepka shakes hands with his caddie Ricky Elliott on the 18th green after they won their second consecutive U.S. Open during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018.  (Copyright USGA/John Mummert)

Brooks Koepka hailed Portrush caddie Ricky Elliott for helping him come back from the dead to become the youngest player to win back-to-back US Opens for 80 years.

Now Elliott's task is to persuade the big Floridian to tee it up in next year's Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Lahinch as a warm-up for The Open in his home town.

After becoming the youngest player since Ralph Guldahl in 1938 to retain the US Open, proving his win at Erin Hills was no flash in the pan, Koepka was full of praise for Elliott, who picked up his bag four and a half years ago at the US PGA at Oak Hill.

Ricky Elliott speaks to the media after Sunday's US Open win. Picture © Brian Keogh

Ricky Elliott speaks to the media after Sunday's US Open win. Picture © Brian Keogh

"I love the guy to death," Koepka (28) said after edging out 63-shooter Tommy Fleetwood by a stroke at Shinnecock Hills.

"When we were seven-over [after 34 holes], he told me 'Get it going, get it back. We're not out of this thing'. He was right. 

"And just keep plugging away. There's a lot of golf left. You never know what the conditions are going to do. 

"I think he told me it was going to get easier, so just hang in there, and it did on Friday.

"But as far as today went, Ricky is honestly one of my best friends. I love the guy to death. He's an incredible caddie."

Portrush-born Elliott won the Irish U-16 Boys in 1993 and the Ulster Boys in 1995 before spending four years on a scholarship at the University of Toledo in Ohio.

He tried his hand on the mini tours in the US but didn’t make it, opting to work at Lake Nona as an assistant professional before taking the opportunity to caddy for Dutchman Maarten Lafeber in Europe for two years.

Elliott went on to work for Ben Curtis, the 2003 Open champion, for three years after that but it was only by chance that he picked up Koepka's bag.

"It was through Claude (Harmon) his swing coach," he recalled. "Brooks was on the Challenge Tour and an unfortunate situation happened with his caddie and he couldn't come to America. 

"So he needed a caddie at the PGA in 2013  so I went and caddied for him and here was this guy from the Challenge Tour, hitting these rockets. 

rooks Koepka hitting his approach shot to the 18th green during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018.  (Copyright USGA/Jason Miczek)

rooks Koepka hitting his approach shot to the 18th green during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018.  (Copyright USGA/Jason Miczek)

"He won three times on the Challenge Tour and said, 'Do you want to keep going? I've only got a  European Tour card. Do you want to come to Europe?' So I said, I'll come home for a little bit and work for you."

The rest is history.

Koepka, who moved up to fourth in the world following his win at Shinnecock Hills, claimed the Turkish Airlines Open in 2014 and his first PGA Tour win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015 before making his Ryder Cup debut and capturing the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan the following year.

Last season, he followed his US Open victory with a successful defence of his title in Japan as well as helping the US to a big Presidents Cup win.

While he was out of action for nearly four months this season with a torn ligament in his left wrist, Elliott was not surprised to see him come up trumps again despite Fleetwood setting a formidable target with that blistering 63

Brooks Koepka after winning the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018. It was his second consecutive Open win.  (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)

Brooks Koepka after winning the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018. It was his second consecutive Open win.  (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)

“Unbelievable,” said the Ulsterman, who is the second Irish caddie to win at Shinnecock Hills after Colin Byrne helped Retief Goosen to victory 14 years ago. 

"There's 20 guys in it to start the day. Anybody could have come [through], like we saw Tommy doing. 

"So it was just head down. We knew we were going to hit it in some bad places so it was just 'keep doubles off the card, keep the head down' and hopefully it will be enough."

Koepka shot 68 to win by a stroke from Fleetwood on one-over par, moving up five spots to fourth in the world after coming good on his Saturday night confidence.

"There's nobody more confident," he said. "I won this thing last year. I feel really good. My game's in a good spot. I feel like you got to kind of take it from me, to be honest with you."

Elliott recognised that confidence from the moment they arrived at Shinnecock Hills.

"I think he had the belief from winning  it last year," he said. "He referred straight away when he saw this course and said, 'This reminds me a bit of last year.' 

"He was confident all week despite us getting away to a poor enough start he always felt that this course suited him and he stayed upbeat the whole week, despite other guys complaining about the greens and whatever. It was the same for everybody."

Koepka had to see of close pal and world number one Dustin Johnson to become the fifth American major winner in a row — all of them winning in their 20s. 

It was a run he began last year by winning at Erin Hills and with Jordan Spieth taking The Open, Justin Thomas the US PGA and Patrick Reed the Masters, US golf is in a strong place as the Ryder Cup looms.

Koepka heads the qualifying charts and will likely form a formidable partnership with Johnson.

They spoke little during Sunday's final round but Koepka promised he'd be the first person he calls when he gets home. 

Brooks Koepka with the trophy at a news conference after winning the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018.  (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)

Brooks Koepka with the trophy at a news conference after winning the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, N.Y. on Sunday, June 17, 2018.  (Copyright USGA/Michael Cohen)

"This is the hardest tournament in the world and you are not going to be talking about what we are going to be doing next Saturday night and what bar we are going to be going to," Elliott said of their cool, final round dynamic.

"They are good enough friends to realise you are on the biggest stage in golf trying to win. They chatted a little bit but it was just normal stuff."

He was as stunned as Koepka to emerge a winner, claiming the caddy's traditional 10 per cent share of the champion's winnings - $216,000.

"It's unbelievable," he said. "It hasn't really sunk in. You can win it once and not realise what actually happened. But to actually win it again, it feels even better actually.  You are sort of validating it. Just winning it twice is unbelievable."

Ricky Elliott talks to American reporters Ryan Lavner, Brian Wacker and Cameron Morfit at Shinnecock Hills after helping Brooks Koepka win back to back US Opens. Picture © Brian Keogh

Ricky Elliott talks to American reporters Ryan Lavner, Brian Wacker and Cameron Morfit at Shinnecock Hills after helping Brooks Koepka win back to back US Opens. Picture © Brian Keogh

Expectations of Koepka could not have been much higher after his win at Erin Hills and Elliott does not believe they will change drastically now that he's won a second major.

"He has been one of the top players for a long time so there has always been that expectation," he said. "There are not going to be any more expectations than was already on him this week. He was the defending champion and world No 9."

Koepka credits his career start on the Challenge Tour in Europe as key to his progression but Elliott laughed when asked if he could twist his boss's arm and persuade him to play in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Ballyliffin is not on the agenda but he's hopeful for Lahinch ahead of The Open at Royal Portrush next year.

"I know he's never been to Ireland so I am trying to talk him into going," he said. "He's forced to go to my home town next year anyway."