Short game helps Koepka make big move

Brooks Koepka is 4-for-4 on sand saves for the week at Pinehurst No. 2.
Brooks Koepka is 4-for-4 on sand saves for the week at Pinehurst No. 2. ( Getty Images )

Friday, June 13, 2014

PINEHURST, N.C. – Brooks Koepka makes it sound so easy.

Keep your approach shots under the hole, give yourself uphill putts – avoiding the speeds of Pinehurst No. 2's torturous greens.

Ask the bulk of the 156-player field how easy that is and you'll likely get a glare or two.

But the four-time Challenge Tour winner and former All-American at Florida State is executing on his game plan through two rounds of the U.S. Open, posting a 2-under 68 Friday morning to vault into a share of second after the morning wave.

"I left it in the right spots. I haven't gotten into too much trouble and when I have, I don't want to say trying to make bogey, but you just try to take double out of play," said Koepka, who has seven bogeys over the two days. "Double will kill you. You've got no chance. you give up two on a hole, that's big. Because you're not making many birdies out here.

"For two days now, I haven't really missed a shot, in fairness. I putted pretty well."

That's an understatement.

A day after needing only 31 putts in an even-par 70, Koepka was nails with his putter Friday, using only 27 rolls.

Koepka, making his second U.S. Open appearance (2012, Olympic Club), has spent the last month working on his short game with Pete Cowen, knowing that success at Pinehurst requires adept short-game skills to manage par or provide the rare opportunity for birdie. Koepka hit 12 greens in regulation in both rounds and is a perfect 4-for-4 in sand saves.

"We've spent hours and hours on these chipping greens," said Koepka. "I've been striking the ball really well, so I have had to chip too much and the spots I'm leaving myself I can actually putt, which I think is a big difference. Because if you get into the grain, you're going to struggle chipping the ball."

He's going to need to amplify his good play over the weekend if he hopes to chase down Kaymer, but he didn't seem overly worried about what he can't control.

"That seems like a long way back," said Koepka, who finished T-3 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic in 2013, while opening the PGA Tour season with a third-place finish at the Open.

"But just keep doing what I'm doing and everything should take care of itself. I'm playing well; I just keep grinding it out and hopefully we'll see. … But just take care of myself and I should be fine come Sunday."

Easy. Peasy.