AUGUSTA, GA — After Friday’s round of last year’s Masters tournament, Brooks Koepka ran into a parked Mercedes-Benz at the Augusta National Golf Club. He was furious, his tournament champion four times, a ripped body, a military chest of careless ambitions, and also missed the cut.
He tried to smash the back window twice with his fists, but the window didn’t crack.
“I didn’t want to play the game anymore when I got stuck, it’s simple,” Koepka said Friday. I was sometimes afraid to get out of bed or put too much pressure on my knees.
But when Koepka gave the world a new glimpse of his anguish and enduring pain, it was as the Masters leader that his 5-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday was a slam dunk when play was suspended. Giving him a 3-stroke lead on the day due to bad weather.
Sunday’s win, or every time the tournament ends, will be an exorcism of sorts for Koepka given that Saturday’s forecast calls for two inches of rain and winds of up to 30 mph. Cut material in just a few years. It was also an extraordinary achievement for his LIV Golf, a circuit Koepka joined after the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund funded billions of dollars, and many in the golf industry denigrated his new league. He assures Koepka that he will be able to play, if at all. I will aim for the Masters for the rest of my life, and maybe another major for the next five years.
“If I can win here,” Koepka said Friday.
That’s right. It also kept his British Open win away from the grand slam of his career.
Koepka approached the first tee on Friday and shared a third of the lead with Victor Hovland and John Rahm, who also hit 65 on Thursday. With bad weather looming, he thought an early start would be an advantage. By the time Augusta his National temporarily suspended play for the first time on Friday, he was well past signing the scorecard, and Rahm and Hobland hadn’t even made a turn. Rahm he had six holes and he didn’t take a shot, Hovland he had seven holes and he surrendered one.
Meanwhile, Sam Bennett, a 23-year-old amateur from Texas A&M University, had four shots to advance to eight under par. His 68 on Friday matched Marvin Ward’s Masters record of 1940 and was his lowest second-round match for an amateur. The tournament was first held in 1934 and has never been won by an amateur.
But Bennett, who overtook Rahm by one shot after the world’s No. 3 golfer birdied on the eighth and ninth holes, certainly beat many pros. Ranked Rory McIlroy had a miserable Friday and was poised to miss the cut at the end of the second round, which Augusta National officials hope will resume on Saturday.
The cut line could change and some players were still playing, but past major champions Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba Watson were in grave danger of ending the tournament. had been exposed. It turned golf’s outward politeness upside down and transformed the player, in the minds of the league’s critics, into a symbol of greed and a secret Saudi quest to repair the kingdom’s tarnished reputation. Hurt the circuit show.
For Koepka, who has earned nearly $38 million in prize money on the PGA Tour, LIV has been his most important showcase of late. He has won his two events on the circuit, including last weekend’s tournament in Florida.
At Friday’s Masters, he barely waited to beat a tie that faced dawn. This hole is his one of the holes a potential champion should move forward.
He made par on the next five holes before reaching No. 8, a 570-yard par-5 that Rahm eagled on Thursday.
After the drive, Koepka calculated he had about 256 yards to the pin. A smudge of mud covered part of the ball, and Koepka wondered what it did. Did. He said he couldn’t have done it so long ago without that uphill lie and lack of power.
After the ball hit the front of the green, it rolled to the right and landed on the green. After the putt, he also had an eagle on his 8th. This year he has played 35 yards longer he got a birdie on the 13th and the 15th sealed his 67 and McIlroy scored the round without a bogey. Four just above the front nine.
“He drove well, hit the irons well, chipped well, putt well,” said 2019 US Open winner Gary Woodland, who was grouped with Koepka on Thursday and Friday. . “It was a 36-hole clinic.”
Such a show of power seemed unlikely until recently, but Koepka’s ability to squat at No. 13 after his birdie on Friday was notably unexpected.
For some time afterward, he was upset when he did something very simple and standard for a professional golfer: slipping at home and dislocating his knee, then rupturing his kneecap and tearing a ligament. I was pissed… I repositioned my knees myself.
He admitted Friday that the decision to join the LIV, which offers a 54-hole uncut tournament and guaranteed prize money, would probably have been a closer decision had he been healthy. Around the time LIV’s first season ended in the fall, he began to believe he was on the brink of a revival.
“My knees are completely different, so the normals are a little different, but the swing feels the same,” he said. “I can do everything I need to do and I have confidence. My knee took my confidence away and that was it.”
Hobland, who was through the 10th hole when play was suspended, and Colin Morikawa, who finished the round, were tied for fourth at 6-under, just behind Rahm and Bennett.
The LIV player closest to Koepka’s score was Phil Mickelson, trailing the leader by eight shots. For a league in trouble, the difference means little. Koepka’s surge in Augusta comes after months of setbacks, including legal defeats, a miserable TV deal in the US, and “virtually zero” earnings according to court filings from his LIV. , perhaps the most welcome reprieve for the circuit. (A federal judge in California ruled Friday that the trial of a tough lawsuit between the PGA Tour and he LIV was scheduled to begin in January 2024. The judge will soon rule that the new He did not set a trial date.)
LIV’s critics and rivals, especially the PGA Tour, revel in the troubles and wish them well. At the same time, many in the golf world were apprehensive about the possibility that the LIV player would soon win one of the sport’s most spectacular competitions.
At last summer’s British Open, a reporter asked the R&A chief executive whether a LIV player lifting a claret jug represented the Governing Body’s “worst nightmare.”
Ultimately, executive Martin Slumbers lashed out at LIV’s model, calling it “not in the long-term interests of the sport” and “totally driven by money.”
“Whoever wins on Sunday will go down in history,” Slumbers replied.
The sports leaders came very close to such a scene last summer. increase.