PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – As he walked behind the sizeable grandstand that surrounds the 18th green at PGA National, Brooks Koepka appeared to be nearing an early exit from the Honda Classic.
Following an opening 78, Koepka had played his first eight holes in 1 under but still stood well outside the cut line as he waited on an official to grant a ruling after his approach to the par-5 had sailed over both the green and the gallery.
What resulted was a free drop, an improbable birdie and a surprising turnaround.
Koepka improved by 14 shots Friday, shooting a 6-under 64 that included six birdies across his final 11 holes. His second-round total was the best score thus far this week on the Champion Course, and at 2-over 142 he is projected to make the cut.
“I guess you could say it was the kickstart I needed,” Koepka said of his birdie at 18, where he eventually pitched from 65 yards to 22 feet and made the putt.
While Koepka’s two playing partners in the tournament’s marquee group, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, both were projected to miss the cut, Koepka was able to rally in front of friends and family in what he described as his “hometown event.”
“It’s meaningful to make the cut at the Honda,” Koepka said. “Today was just a grind. The last two days was a grind with the weather and everything like that, so I’m very pleased.”
A winner earlier this season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Koepka noted that his attitude change in recent months afforded him the perspective to salvage this week’s tournament after a slow start.
“Just to be able to grind it out is key, and to never think you’re out of it,” he said. “Great players, no matter what they shoot the day before on Thursday, they are going to come out and they are going to play well on Friday.”