Brooks Koepka seems to be on his way back toward the top.
Koepka, the former No. 1-ranked golfer in the world who has battled hip and knee injuries for more than a year, shot 6-under-par 66 at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., to take a one-stroke lead over sixth-ranked Collin Morikawa, Cameron Smith of Australia and Billy Horschel in the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession.
“I feel like I’m back to where I was now, and even felt like I was knocking on the door when I missed three straight cuts earlier this year,” said Koepka, now ranked No. 12, who claimed his 15th professional victory and eighth on the PGA Tour in the Waste Management Phoenix Open early this month.
“We haven’t played this course before, but I felt more comfortable today, knowing where to hit it and where to miss. I like the course because it’s what I grew up playing, on Bermuda grass, and I feel good on and around the greens.
“And I want to keep it going into the weekend.”
Koepka, who has won four major titles and one WGC event, made three birdies on the front nine, four more on the back and held a two-shot lead until carding his lone bogey at No. 18 to finish 36 holes at 11-under 133.
Morikawa, the reigning PGA champion, collected five birdies on the front nine while capping off a 64 that equaled the low score of the day, while Smith finished at 66 and Horschel wound up at 67.
“I just made some putts,” said Morikawa, from La Canada Flintridge and Cal. “I worked a lot on my chipping, and that feels really good. That’s what made me have a bunch of six, eight‑footers. And to finally feel confident if I do miss a green that I can get up-and-down, it’s a lot of confidence.
“My putting has never felt this good and whether I make or miss putts, knowing that my stroke is good, line‑wise, tempo, that’s all that matters.”
Ninth-ranked Webb Simpson, who had a share of the first-round lead, totaled 69 and is two down in a tie for fifth with Tony Finau, who made five birdies on the back nine in a 67, and Matthew Fitzpatrick of England, who was tied with Simpson after one round and also carded a 69.
Defending champion Patrick Reed, who won this event last year in Mexico, finished at 68 despite two late bogeys and is three back in a tie for eighth with Kevin Kisner, who had a bogey-free 69, while Abraham Ancer of Mexico holed out from a greenside bunker for an eagle at No. 17 to shoot 66 and is five strokes behind in a tie for 10th with Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, who came in at 68.
Third-ranked Justin Thomas had eighth birdies in a 66 and is in a tie for 13th that includes eighth-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who had seven birdies in a wild 70, while 10th-ranked Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis made six birdies as he finished his 64 on the front nine.
Fourth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State shot 72 and is in a tie for 35th that includes fifth-ranked Tyrrell Hatton of England, who had a 73, while second-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain struggled to a 76 and is tied for 43rd, and top-ranked Dustin Johnson bounced back from a 77 with a 69 and is tied for 54th.
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