KIAWAH ISLAND, South Carolina (Reuters) – Four-times major winner Brooks Koepka overcame a woeful start to complete a stellar first round at the PGA Championship just two months after knee surgery, carding a three-under-par 69 to finish tied second on Thursday.
Beginning from the back nine, the 31-year-old landed his first shot in the waste bunker en route to a double-bogey on the par-four 10th.
“Probably a poor club choice off 10. I thought 3-wood would have carried, but it didn’t,” said Koepka, who won the tournament in 2018 and 2019.
“Deserved every bit of that double bogey. It kind of helped refocus. I can’t play with any mistakes, maybe one a day, and that was my one, and I got it out of the way the first hole.”
He quickly found his rhythm, collecting six birdies on the day, and draining a 24-foot putt on the par-four fourth hole, despite struggling with his accuracy on the driver.
“Six birdies in any round is pretty good but if I drive in the fairway, I give myself a lot of opportunities,” said Koepka. “I drove it so poorly today.”
Koepka ended the day in a six-way tie for second with Britain’s Sam Horsfield, Norwegian Viktor Hovland, Australian Cam Davis and fellow Americans Keegan Bradley and Aaron Wise, two behind leader Corey Conners.
The performance was a remarkable improvement for Koepka, who underwent surgery in March after he dislocated his kneecap and sustained ligament damage.
His mobility was so limited that he could scarcely bend over at the Masters last month, where he missed the cut.
“Every day gets a little bit better,” said Koepka. “I notice it kind of more over weeks. Week to week, I’ll notice it gets a lot better.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both; writing by Amy Tennery, editing by Ed Osmond and Stephen Coates)