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Golf-American Koepka plans extended stay on European Tour

Reuters

By Matt Smith

DUBAI, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Brooks Koepka's golfing odyssey has taken him to more than 20 countries on the European Tour but the tanned American is brushing homesickness to one side as he vows to learn his craft on the circuit.

The 23-year-old's unusual career strategy appears to be working, with the easy-going Floridian in Saturday's final third-round pairing at the Dubai Desert Classic alongside world number six Rory McIlroy.

Koepka started brightly with four birdies and a solitary dropped shot on the front nine but found the going harder after the turn as he carded a 70 for a 12-under aggregate of 204, four adrift of leader Stephen Gallacher of Britain and two behind McIlroy.

"I'm bad with jet-lag, you'll laugh at me but I'm terrible," the American told reporters. "It's tough trying to talk to friends and family.

"I don't want to say it's easy in the States but it's harder over here. It's good though, learning how to play golf and also learning about myself too."

It was the first time the world number 93 had played with McIlroy, 24, but he said he was not overawed having also partnered his idol Tiger Woods at last year's U.S. PGA Championship.

"When I was playing with Tiger I got caught watching. I've got to know Rory a little bit over the past few months and it's been fun," said Koepka.

"I have learned not to watch when playing, no matter who my playing partner is. You've got to focus on what you're doing."

RAPID PLAYER

Koepka is a rapid player, striding between shots as if he is desperate to get a club back in his hand.

He did not bother to mark his ball on some greens on Saturday, simply taking a moment to compose himself before striking his putt.

"The greens are so good, from three feet if you start on line it just goes in," said Koepka.

"Guys over-analyse a lot. You know where the pin is, you've played four rounds on this golf course - it shouldn't take that long."

McIlroy and Koepka, who laughed and joked as they walked down the third fairway, were born within a year of each other but their standings in the game could hardly be more different.

The Northern Irishman won his first tour event as a teenager and has already had victories in the U.S. Open and the U.S. PGA Championship.

Koepka turned professional in 2012 as he earned his stripes on Europe's second-tier Challenger Tour, winning four events before joining the main circuit in July.

The third-generation Czech said he had no plans to switch to the U.S. Tour.

"I will stay over here for a little bit and learn, do exactly what Adam Scott did," added Koepka, referring to the world number two from Australia.

"He's somebody I've looked up to and hopefully I can get to number two or three in the world," said a laughing Koepka. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)

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