Koepka matches career best round for lead at WGC in Memphis

Koepka matches career best round for lead at WGC in Memphis

Koepka matches career best round for lead at WGC in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Brooks Koepka has been working hard to fix his game even with an injured left knee.

He put everything together Thursday.

The defending champ matched his career best with an 8-under 62 to take a two-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd after the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

A week after missing the cut in Minnesota in the 3M Open, Koepka had nine birdies and a bogey on a windy day at TPC Southwind in the World Golf Championship event. He credits all his work with coaches Claude Harmon and Pete Cowen rather than how comfortable he is on this course.

“It’s the first time I feel like I know where my misses are, I know when the club’s in the correct spot, I know when the putting stroke’s nice,” Koepka said. “It’s all just the work we’ve put in over the last three weeks of countless hours of beating balls and on the putting green.”

Koepka also will defend his PGA Championship title next week at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, and his coaches helped him realize last weekend how much he was favouring his injured left knee.

He sure found something at TPC Southwind, where he turned in his lowest round of the year and best in seven events at this course. This was his eighth time shooting under par in his last nine rounds here. He needed 26 putts after working earlier this week with Phil Kenyon.

“It’s nice to see those results and all the changes we’ve made come through,” Koepka said.

Fowler, who last missed the cut at Memorial, chipped in from 30 feet to tie Koepka. Then Fowler two-putted for bogey after putting his tee shot in the left rough on his final hole to finish at 64.

It was Fowler’s lowest round after missing three cuts since the PGA Tour’s return to play in June. He credited getting back to playing golf instead of just working on the range.

“I was able to get a lot of good work with the putter last week and get myself back into some better positions to free up the putter,” Fowler said. “I was pulling a lot of putts, I was kind of tense with it, so it’s nice to see things kind of pay off.”

Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., is the top Canadian following a 2-under 68. Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., is 1 under, Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., fired a 2-over 72 and Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin is 3 over.

Sung Kang shot 65. Justin Thomas, who can move back to No. 1 in the world with a victory, shot a 66 and was tied with Matt Kuchar, Chez Reavie and Max Homa.

Jon Rahm, playing his first event since becoming No. 1 with a win at Memorial, shot 70. He said he didn’t play like a No. 1 player, especially on a day where players could lift, clean and place on perfect greens. Rahm said Koepka and Fowler made it look easy.

“I just didn’t have a swing today,” Rahm said. “I felt terrible, I could not figure out where the ball was going to go, and I was just trying to minimize mistakes.”

Rory McIlroy also could move back to No. 1 with a win. He opened with a 73.

Koepka, teeing off in the next-to-last group, made clear his injured left knee won’t slow down his title defence. He birdied his first four holes to shoot up the leaderboard and went to 4 under to share the lead with Bryson DeChambeau after rolling in a 23-footer for birdie on the par-3 No. 4.

Koepka bogeyed No. 7. when he missed a 10-footer. He hit his tee shot on the par-3 No. 8 within 7 feet and made the birdie putt. He used his putter again for a second straight birdie, rolling in an 18-footer on No. 9 to make the turn with the best front nine of the day with a 30 that tied him for the lead at 5 under.

The defending champ just kept making birdies. He added two of his first four on the back nine, the second sinking a 7-footer on No. 13. He tapped in for birdie after just missing an eagle on the par-5 No. 16.

Divots: Koepka also opened with a 62 at the 2017 Shriners Hospitals for Children. He finished second at that event. … Tee times for the second round were moved to Friday morning to avoid predicted thunderstorms. … Players, caddie and staff wore rainbow ribbons in memory of Camilo Villegas’ daughter, Mia, who died Sunday of tumors on her brain and spine at 22 months old. … With no fans allowed at an event that has benefited St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital since 1970, St. Jude had to get creative to raise both money and attention for a hospital that never bills its patients. Fans and pros can take part in Birdies for St. Jude making either a one-time donation or pledge an amount for each birdie by a specific player during this tournament. Art from St. Jude’s patients also have been turned into caddie bibs and special shoes for both Fowler and Bryson DeChambeau, which will be auctioned off for the hospital.

___

More AP golf: https://apnews.com/apf-Golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Teresa M. Walker, The Associated Press

Golf

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Monday that11 more people had died from COVID-19, bringing the province’s death toll to 1,447. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Indigenous people gather for a ceremony for Cindy Gladue held at the courthouse in Edmonton, Alta, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Bradley Barton, a 52-year-old long-haul truck driver from Ontario on trial for manslaughter, is accused of killing Gladue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
People stand in support of mother as new trial gets underway in death of Cindy Gladue

Bradley Barton, a long-haul truck driver from Ontario, will now be tried for manslaughter in the 2011 death

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Most Read