Brooks Koepka fires 64 to take lead at WGC-HSBC Champions

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Brooks Koepka fires 64 to take lead at WGC-HSBC Champions

PGA Tour

Brooks Koepka fires 64 to take lead at WGC-HSBC Champions

What kind of day was it for Brooks Koepka on Thursday?

This is telling: Koepka hooked a 3-iron into a hazard at the par-5 eighth hole, his 17th hole of his first round at the WGC-HSBC Champions. After splashing out – literally – back into the fairway, Koepka then hit 3-wood onto the green from about 275 yards and made a 20-footer for birdie.

“It was an interesting hole to say the least,” Koepka told the National Post. “I hit an awful 3-iron, hit it in the water and was lucky enough to at least hit it and advance it and hit a great 3-wood in there just past the pin. We were laughing. It was almost kind of destiny to make that putt.”

The birdie was his seventh and final one of the day. Koepka added an eagle and just one bogey (after a three-putt from 4 feet at the par-4 third) to shoot 8-under 64 and grab the first-round lead at Sheshan International in Shanghai.

“I felt like I struck it really well (and) drove it really well,” Koepka said. “Anytime you’re making putts and you’re keeping it in the fairway, you’re going to shoot good.”

This is Koepka’s first start of the 2017-18 PGA Tour season. He was sixth in his final start of last season, at the Tour Championship, and has six top-20s in seven starts since his U.S. Open victory. He also helped the U.S. win the Presidents Cup earlier this month.

Now, he’s off to a good start in China, where he leads Gavin Green, a former standout at New Mexico, and Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand by a shot.

“Anytime you can get off to a good start and be close to the lead or have the lead, that’s what you want,” Koepka said. “Just roll that into the rest of the week.”

Aphibarnrat, who was runner-up two weeks ago at the Italian Open, made 10 birdies as part of his 7-under 65. His round included a stretch of seven straight birdies, from Nos. 16-4.

“I’m confident with my swing,” Aphibarnrat said, “and the way I’m striking the ball and rolling the putts on the greens, I think it might be a good week.”

The Thai golfer also wore all black to honor Bhumibol Adulyadej, the late king of Thailand who died last year. A yearlong mourning period for the king of more than 70 years ended this week.

“It’s not an easy situation, because it’s hard to explain how deeply our king was loved and how sadly he is missed,” Aphibarnrat told The Associated Press’ Doug Ferguson. “He will always hold a special place in my heart. But he loved sport, and he would have been the first to say the show must go on.”

Patrick Reed is tied for fourth at 6 under along with Haydn Porteous of South Africa. Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose are among a group at 5 under.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is tied for 11th at 4 under. Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama is T-67 at 2 over.

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