Brooks Koepka is once again in prime position heading into the weekend as he looks to build on his stellar major record.
By Will Gray
Another major, another chance for the game's best players to strut their stuff, another opportunity for Brooks Koepka to demonstrate his mastery of the most difficult aspects of his craft.
Koepka is at it again this week at Royal Portrush, cobbling together 36 largely consistent holes on the difficult Dunluce Links. He's not leading The Open heading into the weekend, but at 5 under he's certainly got the Claret Jug within sight. That bit hardly comes as news, given that Koepka has finished first or second in each of the last four majors.
But even after carding a pair of sub-70 rounds, Koepka was left wanting more and wondering what might have been from a solid but unspectacular start.
"I haven't made a putt all week. I just need to figure that out," Koepka said. "If I can make some putts, I could very easily be 10 under, and really maybe more. I haven't made anything."
Koepka's refrain is similar to the one he offered last month at Pebble Beach, where his quest for three straight U.S. Open titles came up just short. Lurking on the fringe of contention for the first two rounds, Koepka tightened his game over the weekend but ultimately couldn't keep pace with Gary Woodland.
But a runner-up finish in a major, his second such result of the year, added to the aura that currently surrounds Koepka in the biggest events. It's reached the point that even a 2-under 69, like the one he shot Friday amid largely calm conditions, can be termed "a little disappointing."
You definitely could have shot a low one I felt like. Where the pin locations were, and where the wind direction was coming from, there were quite a few gettable holes," Koepka said. "But at the same time, I'm close enough where if I play a good weekend, I'll be in good shape."
“I'm hanging around, I guess. Just good enough. ” brooks koepka
The weekend will surely receive the focus of Koepka, who appears poised to improve upon his T-6 finish two years ago at Royal Birkdale. He sits three shots behind J.B. Holmes and two behind England's Tommy Fleetwood, but after making just two bogeys over his first 36 holes the tweaks and fixes from this point are sure to be minor.
The major part, Koepka seems to have under control if given an opportunity to contend. And smiling at the halfway point despite leaving a few birdies unclaimed over his first two trips around Royal Portrush, Koepka certainly will have another tantalizing opportunity to close out an incredible year in style.
"I'm hanging around, I guess. Just good enough. It's not where I want to be, but I guess for not making anything it's hard to really expect to be up in the lead," Koepka said. "I'll figure it out this weekend."