Koepka matches career low to lead WGC event in Memphis, Rahm shoots 70 as McIlroy struggles

By Sports Desk July 30, 2020

Brooks Koepka made a dream start to his title defence at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational after matching his career-low round on the PGA Tour.

Koepka carded an eight-under-par 62 for a two-stroke lead following the opening round of the World Golf Championships event in Memphis on Thursday.

The four-time major champion – who has missed two cuts in his past three outings heading to TPC Southwind – was almost flawless at the PGA and European Tour tournament.

Koepka, troubled by a knee injury that has led to just one top-10 finish in 10 tournaments this year, raced out of the blocks with four consecutive birdies before closing out the front nine with back-to-back gains after dropping the seventh.

The American star was bogey free after the turn, birdieing the 11th, 13th and 16th holes to top the leaderboard ahead of countrymen Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd.

Kang Sung-hoon is outright fourth on five under, a shot ahead of 2018 champion Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Chez Reavie and Max Homa, while the likes of Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are three under through 18 holes.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth endured a mixed round, posting a double bogey, two bogeys and six birdies for a two-under-par 68 – a score matched by players such as Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Xander Schauffele.

Dustin Johnson, the 2016 winner who withdrew from last week's 3M Open, signed for a first-round 69 to be a shot better off than world number one Jon Rahm.

Rahm dethroned Rory McIlroy as the world's top-ranked golfer after winning the Memorial Tournament earlier this month and the Spanish star opened his Memphis campaign with four bogeys and four birdies.

He performed a lot better than McIlroy, who carded a three-over-par 73 to leave himself with plenty of work to do heading into Friday's second round.

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  • The Masters: Defending champion Johnson misses cut along with Koepka, Garcia and McIlroy The Masters: Defending champion Johnson misses cut along with Koepka, Garcia and McIlroy

    Defending champion Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all missed the cut at the Masters on Friday, while Justin Rose remains in the lead.

    Johnson, who won the Masters for the first time in November, shot a three-over 75 on the second day to be five over overall and miss the cut by two strokes.

    World number one Johnson made three bogeys on his final four holes to miss out, having previously impressed at Augusta, with top-10 finishes in his past five appearances.

    He made four birdies on the front nine but also had two bogeys and a double bogey on the fifth.

    Johnson becomes the third Masters champion in the past 15 years to miss the cut.

    "Six three-putts in two rounds, you just can't do that," Johnson said. "Obviously didn't drive it great but drove it good enough.

    "I never was really too bad out of position, just the three-putts killed me. You take all the three-putts away, I'm one under. That was kind of the difference."

    The 36-year-old was joined by four-time major winner Koepka with a similar round to miss the cut, along with 2017 Masters winner Garcia, who shot an even round of 72 to finish at four over.

    Four-time major winner McIlroy (74) and two-time Masters runner-up Lee Westwood (71) also failed to make the cut, with both unable to recover after poor first days at Augusta.

    At the other end of the leaderboard, Rose sits one shot clear of Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman after a second-round 72, having led by four shots on the opening day.

    Rose bogeyed four of his first seven holes on Friday, before steadying with three birdies on the back nine to salvage his lead.

    "I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you're just slightly off," Rose said.

    "You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling. I think maybe off the back of yesterday, it starts to feel pretty different pretty quickly. But I told myself going up the eighth hole, you're leading the Masters, your frame of reference is a little bit different to yesterday. Four ahead is something, but you're still leading so like just enjoy it and keep going."

    On his Masters debut, 24-year-old Zalatoris moved up the leaderboard swiftly, aided by five birdies on his back nine, including three straight to finish his round as he carded a four-under 68.

    Harman also moved into contention after three birdies on his final six holes to finish with a three-under 69.

    Australian Marc Leishman and last week's Texas Open winner Jordan Spieth are tied for fourth after both enjoyed strong rounds on Friday.

    Bernd Wiesberger and Tony Finau both shot 66s on Friday to storm up the leaderboard into joint sixth alongside four other players, including world number two Justin Thomas.

  • The Masters: Koepka set for 'long break' after missing cut The Masters: Koepka set for 'long break' after missing cut

    Brooks Koepka is unsure if he will play again before the US PGA Championship after missing the cut at the Masters on Friday.

    Playing for the first time since February after undergoing knee surgery, Koepka carded rounds of 74 and 75 to miss the cut at Augusta.

    After back-to-back top-10 finishes at the Masters, it marked the first time the four-time major winner had failed to reach the weekend at the tournament.

    With the US PGA due to start at Kiawah Island on May 20, Koepka is unsure if that will be his next competitive event.

    "It's tough to say right now. That's, what, five weeks ahead, I think? It's kind of tough to say that," he told a news conference.

    "I won't miss it, I know that, but tough to say if I'll play anything before that just for how it feels, how rehab goes and everything."

    He added: "I wouldn't have been playing for another month if it wasn't this week. So I'll take a nice long break after this.

    "Way I look at it, I have two more days to do rehab that I probably wouldn't get if I was out here, and I'll get ready for the PGA."

    Koepka, who was playing just his sixth tournament of the year, lamented his putting performance at the Masters.

    "Putter was ice cold, didn't make any putts. I don't want to say the speed was off, maybe the reads a little bit. Maybe the start line. I'm not quite sure," he said.

    "A lot of them felt like good putts, and they weren't even hitting the hole. I don't know. It could be any one of those things. They felt good coming off the face, but they didn't even sniff it."

  • The Masters: Leader Rose had words with himself to spark second-round recovery The Masters: Leader Rose had words with himself to spark second-round recovery

    Justin Rose felt having words with himself and taking a match-play approach was the turning point as he recovered from a poor start to regain the Masters lead on Friday.

    Rose started his second round with a four-shot advantage courtesy of a sublime seven-under 65 at Augusta on Thursday.

    The Englishman remained on seven under at the end of his second round following a level-par 72, leading Masters debutant Will Zalatoris and Brian Harman by just a solitary stroke.

    Rose bogeyed four of his first seven holes on Friday, but three birdies on the back nine returned the former world number to the top of the leaderboard in his pursuit of a first green jacket.

    The 2013 U.S. Open champion was content after turning the tide and revealed he gave himself a talking to on the eighth following a shaky start.

    He said: "I had a little talk with myself on eight and said 'you're still leading the Masters', and I just changed my mindset a little bit and started to play match play against the golf course.

    "I scratched a line on my scorecard and told myself I was three down and could I go ahead and beat the golf course from that point on. I had a putt on 18 to win my match one-up, but unfortunately it just slipped by. But an honourable draw."

    He added: "I felt like the turning point for me, a good two-putt on number nine just to stop the rot and just to feel like could then just walk onto the back nine and try to build something fresh and something new. I actually started to play pretty well from that point onwards."

    Birdies proved to be easier to come by for the field than during the first round, with Jordan Spieth and Marc Leishman among those to make strides as they moved into a share of fourth on five under.

    Despite seeing his lead reduced, Rose - who has been troubled by a back injury this year - believes he "grew" during a mixed day.

    He said: "I think it was a worthwhile day for me. And not having played for a month, and to suddenly find yourself in the situation I was yesterday, I'm not kind of brimming with confidence right now in that sense, so today was always going to be a challenging day.

    "I felt like in the end, I felt like I grew a little bit from today, which is good."

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