Brooks Koepka hasn’t missed a cut since March at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he failed to play the weekend for the third time in four weeks after opening with rounds of 78 and 70. Two months later he won the US Open at Erin Hills, and followed it up with a T-6 in his next start at the Open Championship. Since then though, Koepka has had just one other top-10, and hasn’t really come close to a win, or dominating the field like he did at Erin Hills.
Thursday’s opening-round eight-under 64 has Koepka a little bit closer, giving him the solo lead in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China. Despite finishing with seven birdies and an eagle, he thought it could have been even better.
“I felt like I left a lot [out there],” said Koepka, who is playing in his first event of the 2017/18 season and making his first start since competing in last month’s Presidents Cup. “I three-putted from 3½ feet, and had another four-footer I missed, had a couple that just burned the edge. But I mean, I played really well. You can’t make everything.”
Koepka’s three-putt came at his 12th hole, the par-4 third, where he made his only bogey of the day after making four birdies and an eagle over the previous seven holes. He wasted no time getting that shot back with a birdie at the par-3 fourth, and picked up two more birdies on his way in at the seventh and eighth.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” Koepka said of his lone bogey. “I could make 9, 12, or I can make an ace, it’s not really going to change anything. Still trying to shoot the best score you can and grind it out.”
It’s just Koepka’s second appearance in the WGC-HSBC Champions, the first coming a year ago where he entered outside the top-20 in the official world golf ranking and finished T-40. This season, he comes in holding the 11th spot and could make his first career breakthrough into the top-10 with a win.
Malaysia’s Gavin Green and Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat are just one back of Koepka after carding seven-under 65s. Green’s round was bogey-free, while Aphibarnrat’s featured 10 birdies and three bogeys.
Two shots behind Koepka is fellow US Presidents Cup teammate Patrick Reed, whose bogey-free 66 matches his opening-round score at last week’s CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges, where he tied for 11th. He’s in search of his sixth victory on the US PGA Tour, and his first since the 2016 Northern Trust at Bethpage Black.