Following an opening eight-over 78, it looked like Brooks Koepka was probably going to take an early exit and miss weekend play at the Honda Classic. It appeared more probable after he made a bogey on his second hole, no. 11, in the downpour at PGA National. However, he was saved by the horn, so to speak. After a long delay, Koepka reeled off eight birdies and posted a six-under 64 — 14 shots better than a day prior — in tough conditions to save his weekend plans.
“Great players, no matter what the score is the day before, if they play bad, they are going to come out and they are going to take it to the golf course and they are going to play well, and that’s what I tried to do,” said Koepka when asked to explain his impressive turnaround from the day prior.
Due to the torrential rain, play was suspended at 8:23 Friday morning for two hours, eight minutes and resumed at 10:31. After a brief respite, play was halted again due to inclement weather in the area and didn’t start again until 12:31pm. Apparently, the three hour and 44 minute delay allowed Koepka to regroup.
“I needed to get something going,” said Koepka, who won his maiden event on the PGA Tour at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this month. “That was the key. I made a birdie I think on 12, especially after the rain delay, or the first one, to come out and make birdie was big, just to build some momentum.”
Turned out he made birdies after both delays — the one on no. 12 and then another on no. 13. Koepka tossed in another bogey on no. 16 before making two consecutive birdies to close out the first nine — which included an unlikely one on the 18th.
Koepka knocked his second shot on the reachable-in-two par-5 *over* the left grandstands. He was given relief and allowed to drop left of the green. From there, he hit a solid pitch to 22 feet and sank the putt for a road-less-taken birdie.
“It was funny, I actually thought it was really funny,” said Koepka, referring to the situation on 18. “It took forever. It took about ten minutes all in total, but I guess you could say it was kind of the kick start that I needed.”
Coming in on the back nine, he holed four more birdies to post the lowest score in the “morning” wave. He made dinner taste even sweeter to finish the day by draining an eight-footer for birdie on the par-4 9th and posting a two-over 36-hole total. At the time, he was safely inside the cut line by just one stroke, but it’s since moved to four-over. With the afternoon wave teeing off late in the day, half the field has yet to complete their second round.
“I don’t know if I needed the birdie (on no. 9),” said Koepka. “I wasn’t even focused on that. I was just trying to focus on finishing off a good round. I think it was important going into the weekend, because the first day on Thursday, it went so poorly. But to walk away with a score of 2-over I’m pretty pleased with that.”
Koepka was even more thrilled to make weekend play at his hometown event.
“It’s meaningful to make the cut here at the Honda,” said Koepka, who hails from Wellington, which is about 20 miles south of PGA National. “I have so many family and friends out that you almost don’t want to let them down. That’s kind of how it feels.
“But I’m glad to make the cut. Today was just a grind. The last two days was a grind with the weather and everything like that. So I’m very pleased.”
With Patrick Reed firing a second consecutive three-under 67 to card a six-under 36-hole total, Koepka has quite a bit of ground to make up, but one thing he’s not concerned about is the weather. While the forecast for Saturday doesn’t look much better than Friday, with rain and potential thunderstorms looming, that doesn’t bother Koepka.
“I didn’t look at the weather (this morning),” he said. “I really don’t care what the weather says. Doesn’t matter. Everybody has to play the same golf course so it’s not too big of a deal.”