Portrush bagman, Ricky Elliott was pivotal alongside ice-cold Brooks Koepka in getting his charge to Major number three of his young career and there are calls now in for an addition to Portrush’s sign ‘Major Golf Capital of the World’.
The sign welcoming golfers to Portrush bears the names – Fred Daly (Open Champion 1947), Graeme McDowell (US Open champion 2010) and Darren Clarke (2011 Open champion).
Elliott, 41 remains a member of Royal Portrush and his parents, Pat and Martha reside in Portrush while his brother, Peter runs the golf shop at Coleraine.
Elliott enjoyed a great amateur career winning the Ulster Boys’ and the Ulster Youths’ Championships while he competed for Ireland in the European Youths Championship in the 1990s alongside Michael Hoey.
He also played college golf for the University of Toledo in Ohio before teaming-up with Koepka at a Challenge Tour event in 2013. Five years on, Elliott has carried the bag for Koepka’s three Major victories with the American becoming the first player since Padraig
Harrington to win three Majors in a 14-month span.
It’s a staggering achievement considering the nagging wrist injury that struck late last year that for a time threatened to derail Koepka’s career. Yet Elliott wisely stood by his man with the Portrush-born bagman set to again caddy for the American in September’s Ryder Cup – their relationship thriving more than ever.
“Being a young fellow Brooks wanted to keep playing and when he got the MRIs they didn’t show much so he took some time off and there really wasn’t any timetable for him to come back,” recalled Elliott.
“It was pretty dire whether he would even come back this year. It was looking like that might happen. To do this, I don’t know, he’s come back with a new appreciation of the game.
“He was the freshest guy at the U.S. Open because he hadn’t played much and to keep it going to win a third Major is just incredible.”
Koepka went into the final round leading by just two shots, with Elliott admitting the duo knew that a rival would emerge from the pack. Predicting it would be Koepka’s boyhood hero, Tiger Woods shooting his lowest score ever in the final round of a Major wasn’t discussed but Elliott’s man remained cool in the face of Tiger’s charge.
“Our plan was to play like we were behind and stay aggressive,” said Elliott. “In our mind, someone was going to get to 14, 15, 16-under so we had to play like we were behind right from the start.
“It was his two heroes who were coming after him. If he was home watching on TV he’d be rooting for them if he wasn’t playing. He never flinched. I’m there clubbing him and he’s acting like it’s Thursday afternoon.
“The reason Brooks has become strong in the Majors is his focus. We do the same things at regular events. I can’t put my finger on it. It’s an intangible thing. It’s something none of us can put a finger on it.
“He’s always been very calm. His wedge game has improved a lot working with Pete Cowen and he was just really dialled into it.”
Of Elliott’s own influence on the result, admirably he plays his role down but there’s no doubt his words of encouragement helped trigger the necessary response to get Brooks over the line.
“After he missed a few putts and we heard all the roars going around and Tiger pulled within one I said, ‘You’ve got to push the button’. ‘You’ve got to get going’. ‘Your putts are going to start falling’. It was nothing much,” he added.
Maybe not to Ricky but his words proved plenty and his partnership with Koepka seems to be only getting stronger.