NBC Sports and Golf Channel analyst Paul Azinger talks with The Post’s Zach Braziller about the Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, which begins Thursday.
Q: After finishing second at the U.S. Open and tied for second at the Masters, can PGA champ Brooks Koepka regain his dominance?
A: I have yet to see the course, but that whole links style of golf and the fact his caddie (Ricky Elliott) grew up there (is a bonus). I think he can handle any style of golf. He went the path of, “I’ve got to make a living, I’m going to play anywhere in the world [by playing on the Challenge Tour in Europe].” It gave him some great experience. It’s time to stop overlooking Brooks Koepka. It’s time to stop thinking, “Is this a fluke? Will it come to an end?” It’s time to start realizing he’s going to be around for 20 years. I always throw him in there with the other top-five, 10 names and I throw him in first. When he won the PGA the way he did, he became first on my list every time.
Q: It’s been five years since Rory McIlroy last won a major. What’s holding him back?
A: I think it’s strictly putting and an occasional injury. It all comes down to his putter. He hits it really nice. More powerfully than most. It’s all putting for Rory. If he putts well, he’s almost impossible to beat. It’s normally his total length of putts, and then a key momentum short putt can stop something you got going positive.