Koepka keeps improving, trails by one shot in Memphis
June 07, 2018
By Jonathan Wall , PGATOUR.COM
Brooks Koepka makes fourth-straight birdie at FedEx St. Jude
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Coming back from a 15-week hiatus due to left wrist surgery, Brooks Koepka wasn't sure how much rust he'd need to knock off when he made his return to the course at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Based on how he's performed over the last month, even Koepka admitted he's surprised how quickly he's managed to get back into contention.
"I didn't expect that," Koepka said. "You feel like coming back after an injury you've got to take some time, two or three weeks to kind of get back into it. Basically came out to TOUR right away. I feel like it healed nicely."
Despite missing the cut with teammate Marc Turnesa in New Orleans, Koepka has improved his finish in the last three starts, including a runner-up finish at the Forth Worth Invitational, where he closed with 63 for the second straight start.
Returning to a place where he owns a T2 and T3 in his last three starts, Koepka hasn't skipped a beat in Memphis, opening with 66 on Thursday to begin one shot off the lead at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Koepka strung together four straight birdies in the middle of the round but suffered an untimely three-putt bogey with three holes to play that left him with mixed emotions regarding the round.
"I didn't really play that great, but scored a lot better that I played," he said. "It was kind of a weird round. Played good for a little bit of a stretch and then kind of sloppy. But 4 under, I'll take it."
Koepka credited the 66 to a strong round with the putter that saw him make over 100 feet worth of putts and gain nearly two shots on the field (plus 1.990) in the strokes gained: putting category.
With just three rounds left before his U.S. Open title defense, it would be understandable if Koepka was already looking ahead to Shinnecock. But that isn't the case.
His sights are firmly set on TPC Southwind and finding a way to secure his third TOUR title.
"I'm not looking forward towards next week," said Koepka. "There's nothing better than winning a golf tournament going into a major. I feel like I'm playing well enough to do that, so just keep doing what I'm doing."
Seamus Power was born in Waterford, Ireland, but has a connection to the state of Tennessee. It was at East Tennesee State University that Power played his collegiate golf. Even though ETSU is roughly a nine-hour drive from TPC Southwind, Power noted the bermuda grass made him feel at home. He follwed last season's T27 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic by grabbing the solo lead with a 65. "It's a great start. I played here last year and it kind of suits my eye, so I kind of feel good going out," Power said.
Save for a bogey on the par-4 5th, Phil Mickelson closed out his round without any major issues, despite missing the last four fairways. In typical Mickelson fashion, he managed to get up-and-down on three of the four holes while adding a birdie on the 8th to shoot 66. "I was able to finish the round off even though I didn't quite have it there at the end," he said.
Seamus Power holds a one-shot lead after Round 1, but he has crowded pack right behind him. A whopping eleven players shot 66 on Thursday, good enough for a share of T2 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. The list of pursuers includes Phil Mickelson, Brooks Koepka, Wesley Bryan and Steve Stricker. The last wire-to-wire winner in Memphis was Ben Crane in 2015.
Steve Stricker and Mackenzie Hughes punched their tickets to the U.S. Open on Monday, getting through 36 holes of sectional qualifying at Ridgeway Country Club and Colonial Country Club. On Thursday, the pair opened with 66 and currently sit one behind Seamus Power. For Stricker, it's the seventh time in eight starts this season he's opened with a sub-70 round.
With one foot in the water, Dustin Johnson chipped in from 40 feet off the green on the par-3 12th for birdie. It was the lone highlight of a relatively quiet round for Johnson, who shot 67 with a double bogey on the 9th hole. "I felt like I played well, just didn't really make any putts, but gave myself a lot of chances and I'm really confident in my game right now," Johnson said.
QUOTABLESWe don't believe in humidity in Idaho, so this is a little bit different for me.That's obviously nice but there's no prizes given out after Round 1.I still feel like I should play out here and I belong out here and that's my mentality and I'm trying to stick with that.
Low round: Seamus Power's 5-under 65.
Longest drive: Zecheng Dou with a 360-yard drive on the 3rd hole.
Longest putt: Johan Kok with a putt of 86 feet, 6 inches for birdie on the 17th hole.
Hardest hole: The 485-yard par-4 5th, which played to a stroke average of 4.244, with just 15 birdies on Thursday.
Easiest hole: The 530-yard par-5 16th, which played to a stroke average of 4.609, with 4 eagles and 68 birdies on Thursday.
Greens in regulation: Andrew Putnam hit 17 greens and shot 67.