(Reuters) - Brooks Koepka fired an eight-under par 62 in the opening round of the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational on Thursday to get his title defense in Memphis off to a flying start.
The world number six has struggled in his last three tournaments and has had pain in his surgically-repaired left knee but was smoking out of the gate, nailing birdies on his first four holes.
His lone bogey came on the par-four seventh but he responded with birdies on this next two holes and was flawless on the back nine, adding three more birdies to sit two strokes clear of fellow Americans Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd.
“I drove it well, putted well, chipped it well,” said Koepka, whose 62 matched his career low round on the tour.
“I did everything very solid. I never really felt like I was having to work too hard out there, so that’s a little different than it has been.”
After missing the cut at the 3M Open last week, Koepka was able to reconnect with coach Pete Cowen for the first time since March due to coronavirus-enforced separation and said his tough love approach helped motivate him.
“With Pete, it’s more psychological,” Koepka said.
“He’ll beat me down, tell me I can’t do something, he’ll jump on me pretty good and I enjoy that when someone tells me I can’t do something.
“Telling me I’m not going to win, it will be a while ... I appreciate everything that Pete does, even though he is chewing me out.”
Koepka will be looking to win his third straight PGA Championship and fifth major overall next week in San Francisco.
Fowler also put a poor recent run behind him, drilling birdies on three of his final five holes for a six-under-par 64.
The 31-year-old drained a 30-foot birdie at the penultimate hole before making his only bogey of the day at the last where his tee shot found the rough.
Todd made four birdies in a row before making the turn and finished his day with a nine-foot birdie putt to also card a six-under 64.
Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Ed Osmond and Kenneth Maxwell
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