Brooks Koepka gave himself the perfect opportunity to become the No1 player in the world when he carded a 7-under par 67 to move to within five shots of the lead at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
The three-time major champion fired five birdies, including four on the back nine, to finish in a tie for 11th after the first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old will move to the top of the world rankings if he finishes inside the top four on Saturday, and despite shooting a bogey free round, the Florida native will need to improve on his front nine if he is to have any hope of rising up the leaderboard.
“I felt like I played well, struck it well, made those kind of key par putts coming down on the back nine. The actual front nine wasn’t the best; it was a little sloppy. But I’ll just clean it up for tomorrow,” he said.
“The golf course is in great shape. These fairways are quite tight. You hit it in the rough and who knows what’s going to happen. The rough is getting a little juicy, especially in the morning when it’s a little wet.
“I like the way it sets up. I feel like it’s very visually intimidating. You’ve got to strike the ball well. I mean, these greens are so good that anything from inside 10 feet, you put it on line, it’s going to go in.”
Five years ago, Koepka opened with a 77 and struggled for large parts of the weekend, missing the cut after a disastrous six-over par 150.
A lot has happened both on and off the course since he last graced the greens in the capital and now the Jupiter resident purrs with confidence every time he touches a golf club.
After winning three majors in the past 18 months, there will be pressure on Koepka to add to that tally this year, but for now, he is content with his overall game and wants to focus on each tournament as it comes.
He said: “I just need to keep doing what I’m doing. I feel like my game is in a good spot, and I feel like if I can build on everything I did last year, I’ll be just fine. You know, the majors are obviously very important, but I want to try to win a few more regular events and kind of establish myself as probably one of the better players.”
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