Koepka matches career low to lead WGC event in Memphis, Rahm shoots 70 as McIlroy struggles

By Sports Desk July 30, 2020

Brooks Koepka made a dream start to his title defence at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational after matching his career-low round on the PGA Tour.

Koepka carded an eight-under-par 62 for a two-stroke lead following the opening round of the World Golf Championships event in Memphis on Thursday.

The four-time major champion – who has missed two cuts in his past three outings heading to TPC Southwind – was almost flawless at the PGA and European Tour tournament.

Koepka, troubled by a knee injury that has led to just one top-10 finish in 10 tournaments this year, raced out of the blocks with four consecutive birdies before closing out the front nine with back-to-back gains after dropping the seventh.

The American star was bogey free after the turn, birdieing the 11th, 13th and 16th holes to top the leaderboard ahead of countrymen Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd.

Kang Sung-hoon is outright fourth on five under, a shot ahead of 2018 champion Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Chez Reavie and Max Homa, while the likes of Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia are three under through 18 holes.

Former world number one Jordan Spieth endured a mixed round, posting a double bogey, two bogeys and six birdies for a two-under-par 68 – a score matched by players such as Jason Day, Bubba Watson and Xander Schauffele.

Dustin Johnson, the 2016 winner who withdrew from last week's 3M Open, signed for a first-round 69 to be a shot better off than world number one Jon Rahm.

Rahm dethroned Rory McIlroy as the world's top-ranked golfer after winning the Memorial Tournament earlier this month and the Spanish star opened his Memphis campaign with four bogeys and four birdies.

He performed a lot better than McIlroy, who carded a three-over-par 73 to leave himself with plenty of work to do heading into Friday's second round.

Related items

  • Steele posts lowest round of PGA Tour career to lead Sony Open Steele posts lowest round of PGA Tour career to lead Sony Open

    Brendan Steele recorded the lowest round of his PGA Tour career as he claimed a two-stroke lead after the third round at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    American golfer Steele – who lost a play-off at last year's tournament – posted a nine-under-par 61 to rise six positions to the top of the leaderboard in Honolulu on Saturday.

    A three-time Tour champion, Steele was flawless at Waialae Country Club, where he drained nine birdies, including his final two holes to be 18 under overall.

    Steele holds the outright 54-hole lead for the second consecutive season at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He could become the first player to lose a play-off and win the same event the following season since Ryuji Imada in 2008.

    Kevin Na (61) and Joaquin Niemann are Steele's nearest challengers heading into the final round of the tournament.

    Na equalled his career low-round, while the American is now tied with Brandt Snedeker and Justin Thomas for the most rounds (four) of 61 or better on Tour since 2014.

    Peter Malnati (64), Charley Hoffman (64), Russell Henley (65), Chris Kirk (65) and Stewart Cink (65) are three shots off the pace.

    Overnight leader and Canadian Nick Taylor, meanwhile, dropped down the leaderboard following his two-under-par 68.

    Taylor ended the round tied for ninth on 14 under, alongside Marc Leishman (65), Keith Mitchell (63) and Daniel Berger (64).

  • Taylor pushes ahead at halfway mark of Sony Open in Hawaii Taylor pushes ahead at halfway mark of Sony Open in Hawaii

    Nick Taylor climbed into a two-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the Sony Open in Hawaii after carding an eight-under 62 on Friday.

    The Canadian kick-started his second round with an eagle at the 18th hole – his ninth – before getting to 12 under at Waialae Country Club.

    Taylor was one under through eight holes in his round before chipping in for the eagle, and he picked up another five shots on the back nine.

    A two-time winner on the PGA Tour, Taylor is two shots clear of Stewart Cink (63), Webb Simpson (65), Russell Henley (64), Vaughn Taylor (66) and Chris Kirk (65).

    Henley is a former champion of the event, lifting the trophy in 2013, while Kirk was runner-up a year later.

    On what is a congested leaderboard, another eight players are just a shot further back.

    Joaquin Niemann (69) and Peter Malnati (69), who shared the overnight lead with Jason Kokrak (71), are among them, alongside Charley Hoffman (65), Collin Morikawa (65), Marc Leishman (65), Hideki Matsuyama (65), Billy Horschel (66) and Brendan Steele (66).

    Steele was runner-up last year and is again well-placed to contend after posting rounds of 65 and 66.

    Horschel, meanwhile, is the only player in the field bogey-free through 36 holes. It is the third time in his PGA Tour career he has been bogey-free through two rounds.

    Defending champion Cameron Smith carded a four-under 66 to sit at seven under – in a tie for 19th in a group that includes Kokrak.

  • Niemann continues good form to share lead at Sony Open in Hawaii Niemann continues good form to share lead at Sony Open in Hawaii

    Joaquin Niemann is part of a three-way tie for the lead after the opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.

    The Chilean carded an eight-under 62 at the Waialae Country Club on Thursday to lead alongside Peter Malnati and Jason Kokrak.

    Coming off a play-off loss to Harris English at the Tournament of Champions, Niemann's fine start to 2021 continued.

    The 22-year-old made seven birdies, a bogey and an eagle, the latter coming with a chip in at the 18th.

    Kokrak produced a bogey-free opening round, while Malnati mixed nine birdies with one bogey.

    At the 17th, Kokrak almost produced a hole-in-one, only to see his shot lip out as he was forced to settle for a birdie.

    Vaughn Taylor, Jim Herman, Aaron Baddeley, Patton Kizzire, Daniel Berger and Kim Si-woo are two shots adrift of the leaders.

    The champion in 2018, Kizzire made a 45-foot eagle putt from off the green at the ninth, while Baddeley – runner-up in 2003 – is also in contention.

    A group of 13 players are at five under, including last year's runner-up Brendan Steele, 2014 runner-up Chris Kirk and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson.

    Defending champion Cameron Smith opened with a three-under 67 to be in a tie for 40th.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.