Brooks Koepka is starting to remind everyone he is the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world.
Koepka, who has won four majors in the last three years, made a tap-in birdie on the last hole to cap a 3-under-par 67 and take a one-stroke lead over Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club www.eastlakegolfclub.com in Atlanta.
“I was struggling a bit the last couple weeks, but I found something and obviously my game is coming into form,” said Koepka, who lost his lead in the FedEx Cup standings when Thomas captured the BMW Championship, second event of the playoffs, last week.
“I like this golf course; I’m comfortable on Bermuda grass because it’s what I grew up on. I feel good and it’s great to have the lead going to the weekend and I should be just fine.”
Thomas, the 2017 FedEx Cup champion who started at 10-under-par in the tournament’s new format as leader in the point standings and was tied for the lead with Koepka and Xander Schauffele after the first round, birdied three of the first eight holes.
However, he didn’t make another birdie after a rain delay and finished at 68, losing sole possession of the lead with his only bogey on the 17th hole.
“I felt like I got the most out of my round yesterday, but today I played well and didn’t get as much out of it,” said Thomas, a 10-time winner on the PGA Tour. “I was playing well, but couldn’t get it going again after the rain delay.
“But I’m still in a good spot with two days left and just have to keep my head down, just keep going.”
Said McIlroy, who captured the 2016 FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship, birdied the last hole after a brilliant, but risky second shot off the pine straw to finish with a 67: “I felt confident in going for it, and pulled it off.”
Schauffele, from La Jolla and San Diego State, finished birdie-eagle with a 24-foot putt on the last hole to salvage a 69 that left him two shots back in fourth, followed by Paul Casey of England, who is three behind in fourth after a 67, while Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA is two more down in sixth following a 71.
Patrick Reed, who captured The Northern Trust to open the playoffs, shot 70 and is seven strokes behind in a tie for seventh with Chez Reavie, who aced the ninth hole from 230 yards in a 64, and Matt Kuchar, the FedEx Cup points leader much of the season who finished at 72, while Adam Scott of Australia is eight back in 10th after a 70.
U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland made a triple-bogey 8 on the final hole to wind up in a tie for 15th after a 73, defending FedEx Cup champion Justin Rose of England is tied for 22nd after a 74, and 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker came in at 72 and is tied for 28th in the 30-plauer field.
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