SAN FRANCISCO – The Masters came a week too early for Brooks Koepka.
The dislocated rib that he suffered at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was still bothering him enough that he couldn’t go full bore at Augusta. He never shot in the 60s on the softer setup and tied for 33rd.
“It was obviously a little disappointing,” Koepka said, but over the past few weeks he’s worked in the gym to strengthen the area and now declared himself 100 percent.
He sure looked like it Wednesday, when he made six birdies during a topsy-turvy match against Russell Henley at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. Koepka won the 17th with a par to take the lead, then hit a deft pitch from just short of the 18th green to close out the match, 1 up.
“I was kind of spraying the ball everywhere,” he said, “but I hung in there. It was nice to play pretty well down the stretch.”
Match play would seem to suit Koepka’s game – his incredible length off the tee puts a lot of stress on his opponents, and he averages nearly four birdies per round on Tour. But surprisingly, the 24-year-old doesn’t have much experience with the format.
This is his first start at the WGC-Match Play. Going back to his amateur days, he compiled a 3-1-1 record in two NCAA finals appearances, but he never advanced to match play in any U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur, and never got selected for a Walker Cup team.
“Wasn’t good enough,” he smiled.