February 2, 2015 / 3:17 AM / 3 years ago

Phoenix winner Koepka credits European experience

Feb 1, 2015; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Brooks Koepka holds the trophy for winning the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale. At left is Waste Management CEO David Steiner. At right is 2015 Tournament Chairman Dan Calihan. Koepka won with 15 under par, beating Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama who tied at 14 under. Mandatory Credit: Tom Tingle-Arizona Republic via USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Brooks Koepka, who won his maiden PGA Tour title on Sunday in Phoenix, said failing to earn a PGA Tour card in 2012 and going to play in Europe instead turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

The long-hitting Koepka, a native Floridian, won four times on the second tier European Challenge Tour and last November broke through for his first European Tour victory at the Turkish Airlines Open.

“Going over to Europe, it toughened me,” he said after a final-round five-under 66 at TPC Scottsdale lifted him to a one-shot victory over Masters champion Bubba Watson, 22-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama and American Ryan Palmer.

“It was a blessing in disguise. At the time I was extremely disappointed, as I‘m sure Jordan Spieth was, too. Because I think we were at the same spot, finished, I think, two out of it,” he said about Qualifying School.

“But that just toughens you up, your drive. It makes you want to get out here that much more.”

Koepka, 24, said competing in Europe was an invaluable education for a golfer.

“I have just learned a lot. Whether it be success or failure, I have learned a lot,” he said. “I think I won maybe two, three times in college.”

Winning has become more familiar as he has matured.

”I have won the Challenge Tour, won in Europe and one here now. It’s been special. But my drive, I think, is what it is.

“I want to be the best player in the world. I‘m not there yet, and I know it’s going to take time, but I want to get to that point.”

Koepka, ranked 33rd in the world coming into the tournament after a pair of top 10s this PGA Tour season, had set his goals high.

“I wanted to come out this year, get a win, make Presidents Cup and further down the road make the Ryder Cup,” he said.

“That’s the goal. I don’t see why I can‘t. I feel like my game is ready for that...ready to compete for majors and win them.”

Reporting by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Patrick Johnston

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