Brooks Koepka of the United States plays a shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 14, 2019 in Pebble Beach, California. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker
PEBBLE BEACH — After a second-straight 69 on Friday to sit five strokes off the lead of Gary Woodland, Brooks Koepka is in position to chase a third straight U.S. Open title this weekend at Pebble Beach.
More immediate, though, were his thoughts about his ball-striking following his round.
“I struck it so poorly Monday and Wednesday,” he said. “I wasn’t playing good. And then it’s been nice to kind of find some confidence, especially on the golf course.”
Something Koepka apparently wasn’t able to do on the practice area, he said, adding that he’d been hitting it thin there.
“This range doesn’t quite help,” he said. “[The wind is] going into and off the left. It’s in a direction I hate. The turf on the range is a little firmer, a little tighter than it is on the golf course.
“And it’s been easier to find my game actually on the golf course.”
Midway through Friday, he was tied for the lead in strokes gained/approach after a round in which he hit 15 greens (not to mention 12 of 14 fairways) en route three birdies and just one bogey.
“I feel great,” Koepka said. “The way I struck it today is a big confidence boost.
“I’m excited. I’ve got a chance. That’s all you can ask for. I just need to make a few putts. If I can get off to a good start [Saturday], have that feeling where the hole’s opening up, it could be a fun round.”
And a historic week, too.
The last — and only — player to win three straight U.S. Opens was Willie Anderson, who did it from 1903-1905.
Koepka, meanwhile, has won four of his last eight majors, including this year’s PGA Championship. He also tied for second at the Masters.
And despite struggling with his putter on Friday, taking a whopping 32 putts, he said he liked the direction his game was headed going into the weekend of another major.
And why not?
He’s near the top of another leader board, something that has the attention of his peers.
“Absolutely, he’s a threat,” Rose said of Koepka. “He is the guy probably that his name is standing out more than anybody else’s.”
And should he go on to win Sunday, it will stand out even more.