At the US Open, Brooks Cap is in his happy place and in contention

BROOKLINE, Massachusetts. – As Brooks Koepka walked down the first fairway on a damp Friday morning, one fan yelled that he approved of the golfer’s outfit.

“This is a great day to wear white, Brooks. It’s hot in here,” a fan shouted. “Stay cool, baby, but don’t be afraid to get hot.”

Koepka, dressed in a white shirt, navy pants and a pale green cap in the second round of the US Open, took the advice of a fan, rebounding in the first round of 73 for a three-under par 67.

This put him in even denomination after two rounds and in a familiar place – within reach of a leader heading to the Country Club for the weekend. Kepka has excelled in his last seven US Opens and finished as good as 18th.

The cap, which won the US Open in 2017 by 16 under par and won again in 2018, speaks of the Open almost paternalistically. His schedule has shifted towards the Majors this season – the only tournaments he’s played since the end of March – and he seems to be doing well in dealing with the issues associated with this particular tournament.

“I love this event,” he said. “This event has always been good for me.”

It’s hard to argue otherwise. Kopka is the most successful US Open player of the last decade.

None of the other 156 won. two US Opens. The last four times he has been in the tournament – he missed the Open in 2020 with knee and hip injuries – he has two wins, in 2017 and 2018, second in 2019 and a fourth-place draw in 2021. earned Koepke over $6 million. In these four tournaments, only four players – Gary Woodland, John Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen and Harris English – finished ahead of Kepka.

“It’s pretty cool,” Kepka said, adding, “I wish there were fewer of them.”

He is one of only seven players to win consecutive US Opens; last to do so before Koepka Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.

But given his lack of tournament play this year, it was hard to predict how good the 32-year-old four-time major tournament champion would be. consecutive PGA championship wins will be in 2018 and 2019. He missed the cut at the Masters. And he attributed his poor performance at the PGA Championship in May — a tie for 55th — to focusing more on his upcoming wedding.

“I was looking forward to this party,” he said of the week-long celebration in early June in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Afterwards, Koepka returned to his home in Jupiter, Florida, worked for four days with his caddy Ricky Elliott, and brushed off any talk of rust due to his dismissal when he arrived at the Country Club.

“I had a lot of other things,” he said. “Sometimes, look, golf is great and all that, and I love it, but at the same time, I have other things that I love to do. The wedding was a big event. Now that’s over and I can go play golf.”

He got mad at reporters at his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, chiding them for asking him and other players questions about the LIV Golf International series. Saudi funded rebel golf tour this attracted stars like Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson with huge fees. The tour will play its second event, one of five in the United States, near Portland, Oregon, starting June 30th.

Cap’s stellar power and propensity for layups make him a perfect target for the upstart who has so far announced eight 54-hole gun-start tournaments with no cuts and huge wallets even for last-place finishers. (Players who opted out of the PGA Tour membership or were suspended from the tour because they joined the LIV Golf series can still play in the four major tournaments that are not hosted by the PGA Tour. although this may change.)

The cap, ranked 19th in the world, could also earn a hefty signing bonus. Mickelson He reportedly received as much as $200 million and Johnson as much as $150 million to join LIV Golf, which is funded by Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund. Koepka’s brother, Chase, is on tour.

“I’m here. I’m here at the US Open,” Brooks Koepka said when asked about the LIV Golf. “You’re all throwing that black cloud at the US Open. I’m tired of it all.”

Kopka had a bad start to his favorite tournament. His 73rd in the first round left him three over par to rank 79th when his day started on Friday. This coincided with the second worst round he has shot in the last seven US Opens. Twice he started with 75. On one such occasion, in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills, he rallied to win the tournament.

During his first game at the Country Club, Koepka had three birds and six ghosts, including three in a row on his back nine. Such a performance in the second round, most likely, would have forced Koepka to go home. But he wouldn’t have any of that.

A long birdie on a difficult third hole resulted in one under par the day after nine holes. It could have been better. He missed his birdie shots on the first, seventh and eighth holes. After the bogey at No. 10, he responded with birdies on the next two holes and heads on No. 1. 14. He missed a short par on No. 1. 15, but made par on the last three holes.

Kopka lamented what he called poor iron play. “This is usually the strongest part of my game,” he said. He promised to fix it quickly. He had superb ball control and notified the rest of the field that he plans to be around and fight this weekend.

“I didn’t come here hoping for second place,” he said. “I think if you are a good player, you want to come here and win. That’s why everyone does it.

He continued, “No one has the goal of just making an incision or anything like that. I mean, I’m pretty confident in myself, but I feel like everyone should be confident, and if you’re not confident, people hate confidence. That’s why people aren’t my big fans.”