World traveler Koepka takes circuitous route to Tour

By Will GrayOctober 10, 2014, 11:31 pm

NAPA, Calif. – At 24 years old, Brooks Koepka has more passport stamps than most men twice his age.

Kazakhstan. Kenya. Qatar. Just in the last month, he has traveled from Switzerland to the Netherlands to Scotland before racing across eight time zones to tee it up this week in wine country.

Koepka’s path to the PGA Tour has been circuitous to say the least, but it has also been effective. Barely two years after turning pro, he arrived at this week’s Open a full-fledged member of the PGA Tour.

Now it’s on to the next step.

After rounds of 68 and 70, Koepka’s name is on the first page of the leaderboard at Silverado Resort & Spa, where he will begin the weekend four shots behind leader Martin Laird. It’s a familiar situation for Koepka, who parlayed a sponsor invite into the 54-hole lead in this event last year at CordeValle, where he ultimately tied for third.

“It’s nice to come back. Obviously it’s at a different course, but you know, this event is special to me,” he said.

It’s an understandable sentiment, since return trips have been somewhat of a rarity for Koepka as a professional.

After three All-American seasons at Florida State, he traded in his amateur credentials following a missed cut at the 2012 U.S. Open. The typical options for a player at that stage in his career would likely include relying on sponsor invites, chasing status on the Tour or perhaps earning experience on the domestic mini-tours.

Koepka, though, had eyes on Europe. Open: Articles, videos and photos

While the popular trend in recent years has been for the top Europeans to take up residence and play more in the U.S., Koepka reversed that scenario, opting to play on the European Challenge Tour in 2012 and again in 2013. The tournament locations were hardly tourist destinations. Koepka’s itinerary included early stops in Trondheim, Norway; Hyvinkaa, Finland; and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

In addition to racking up frequent-flier miles, Koepka picked up another valuable asset during his travels – he learned to win.

His first 12 months as a pro yielded four victories, from Spain to Italy to Scotland.

“Having yourself under pressure, it’s different. It’s hard to win,” he said. “I think people think it’s easy watching on TV, but it is hard.”

Koepka’s time on the Challenge Tour yielded full-time status on the European Tour, as well as an opportunity to use a handful of sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour. His first invite came at this event a year ago, and after moving up the FedEx Cup non-member points list, he earned his card for the 2014-15 season with a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open.

“I keep telling everybody, it was kind of in stages,” he said. “The first couple PGA Tour events it was kind of like, ‘Let’s just make the cut and let’s try to build something here.’ I felt pressure, too, because I only had the seven starts (on sponsor exemptions) and I knew I had to play well.”

Koepka’s unorthodox ascension to the PGA Tour shows that there is more than one route to the game’s biggest stage, and his success has been noticed by the likes of Cameron Wilson, who won the NCAA individual title in May while at Stanford and who hopes to follow in Koepka’s footsteps by turning a sponsor invite at this event into a high finish.

“I think it just shows that there’s a lot of good young players now, and that for a lot of guys, it’s not a huge leap from college or amateur golf to turning pro,” said Wilson, who is 5 under after two rounds. “It seems like a lot of guys are as ready as they’ve ever been.”

While Koepka’s rise has been a quick one, he is hardly resting on his laurels. A season that begins with a handful of sponsor exemptions and ends with a PGA Tour card would be viewed by most as a wild success, but his self-assessment is decidedly mixed.

“This year has been a little disappointing that I haven’t won. So I’d like to change that,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing well. I’m knocking on the door the last few weeks, even in Europe. I felt like I had a couple of chances to win.”

Two years of globetrotting have netted Koepka a spot on the PGA Tour, and his chase for that maiden victory will continue this weekend at Silverado.

He admits, though, that his ultimate focus remains on an even bigger prize down the line.

“The next thing will be a major, I guess,” he said. “I feel like my game is suited for it and I’m playing well. I don’t see any reason why not.”

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.