Defending U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka hanging around after second-round 66

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Defending U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka hanging around after second-round 66

PGA Tour

Defending U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka hanging around after second-round 66

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – One thing that Brooks Koepka learned from last year’s U.S. Open victory at Erin Hills: Just hang around.

Through 36 holes of his U.S. Open title defense at Shinnecock Hills, Koepka is doing just that. He birdied six of his last 11 holes Friday to shoot 4-under 66 and tie the best round of the championship. Adding that to his opening 75, Koepka is 1 over and tied for fourth, five shots behind Dustin Johnson, the leader by four shots.

“Obviously, you don’t want to be that many back, but it’s a U.S. Open, so disaster’s always around the corner,” Koepka said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You just keep putting the ball in play, hitting greens and try to sneak in a few birdies when you can.”

Koepka missed just two greens in Round 2, so he gave himself plenty of chances. Most of them were good, as he holed five birdies on putts inside of 12 feet. The only birdie from longer distance came at the par-4 eighth, where he sank a 14-footer.

Momentum is on Koepka’s side. And he knows it.

“There’s nobody more confident here than me,” Koepka said.

Koepka is building quite the major reputation. He was fourth at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst and cracked the top 20 both years after that before his victory at Erin Hills. He also has a pair of top-10s in both the British Open and PGA Championship, and tied for 11th last year at the Masters.

Since missing his first two major cuts, he’s made 16 in a row. And now he knows not only how to contend, but how to finish.

“As long as you can put yourself in the position to be there on Sunday with nine to play,” Koepka said. “I don’t want to say it’s easy to win a major championship, but if you put yourself in the correct spot where you need to be and you play good golf, it’s amazing how things turn out.”

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