AUGUSTA Ga. (Reuters) - Brooks Koepka was all brawn in the first round of the Masters but on Friday he was all brains as he showcased his mental toughness on a day when it looked like he might drop out of contention.
A day following a flawless trip around Augusta National, overnight leader Koepka was forced to battle through ups-and-downs en route to a one-under-par 71 that left him in a five-way share of a one-shot lead after the second round.
“I’m proud of myself the way I hung in there,” said Koepka, who is on seven-under-par for the tournament. “To be where I’m at, as badly as I putted and hit the ball today, I’m pleased with it.”
Three-time major champion Koepka birdied the first hole but looked like he might unravel after running into trouble at the par-five second where he made a double-bogey after his drive found the trees to the left and second shot went in a hazard.
Koepka responded immediately with a birdie but then had a pair of bogeys over the next three holes, at which point it appeared the new leaders would begin to pull away on an Augusta National layout that was softened due to rain.
But Koepka righted the ship with a birdie at the par-five eighth and then played solid golf on the back nine with birdies at 15 and 18, the latter which will surely send him into the night feeling better.
“I know some people don’t think I’m mentally tough, or tough in general, but I think I am,” said Koepka. “I’ve proven that with three (major) trophies.
“I feel like no matter how things are going, whether they are going really well or really poorly out there, I can grind it out, and especially during a major.”
Koepka, who has won two of the last three majors and missed last year’s Masters due to a wrist injury, is not about to panic or overanalyze what happened during the second round.
“I’ve been playing this game for 22, 23 years. Nothing is going to change overnight,” said Koepka. “I know how to play the game. I just know how to hit the ball. I know I’m going to go out there and go do what I normally do.
“I’m not trying to, you know ‑‑ just because it’s a major on a Saturday, I’m not going to go out and do anything different. Just go tee it up, look where I want to hit it and fire at it.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford