BROOKS STARTS STRONG IN BID FOR SEASON-LONG BONUS SPOT
KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia – Smash GC Captain Brooks Koepka needs to repeat as tournament champion at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club to have any hope of moving into third place in the season-long Individual standings and claiming the $4 million bonus at the end of the week.
He’s taken a solid first step.
Koepka fired a 4-under 66 on Friday at LIV Golf Jeddah presented by ROSHN and is just one shot off the lead held by Ripper GC’s Marc Leishman. Koepka is tied for second with 4Aces GC Captain Dustin Johnson and RangeGoats GC’s Harold Varner III.
Like Koepka, Johnson and Varner also have experienced success at Royal Greens, albeit in a different tournament (PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers). Koepka, meanwhile, is picking up where he left off at LIV Golf Jeddah last year when he won in a playoff over then-Smash teammate Peter Uihlein.
“I feel comfortable on this golf course. I feel good about it,” Koepka said. “I enjoy playing in the wind. When it's very difficult, I enjoy that. It's very tricky to putt out here. You might have some putts that are left to right, but the wind is off the right and the putt ends up going right to left. It's very challenging. You've got to play strategically, I think, and position your ball really well, and I really enjoy that.”
Koepka’s round was highlighted by a hole-out for eagle at the par-4 ninth. “A little bit of luck involved for any shot to go in, but it was a good shot too, so it was nice,” he said.
Koepka entered the week ranked fifth in season-long points. If he can win on Sunday while current No. 3 Bryson DeChambeau finishes no better than 14th, then Koepka will move into third in the final standings.
But he says he’s not focused on the potential bonus-paying spot.
“Just trying to play good golf,” he said. “Couldn’t care less.”
On the flip side, Koepka’s brother Chase did not make any headway toward moving out of the Drop Zone and avoiding relegation.
Chase shot a 3-over 73 and is tied for 46th. He needs a high finish this week to move up in the season-long standings. He’s currently 48th in points, with players 45th and below facing relegation.
Jason Kokrak shot an even-par 70 and is projected to finish 24th in the points standings, which would keep him in the Lock Zone and guarantee his spot in next year’s LIV Golf League.
As a team, Smash is tied for 10th at 1 under, with Brooks (66), Kokrak (70) and Chase (73) contributing scores. Matthew Wolff shot a 76.