Monday, November 28, 2022

No St. Patrick’s Day luck of the Irish for Brooks Koepka, just a ‘stress-free’ 67 for Valspar Championship start

No St. Patrick's Day luck of the Irish for Brooks Koepka, just a 'stress-free' 67 for Valspar Championship start

Palm Harbor, Fla. – When his tee shot went overboard last Saturday in the iconic par-3 17th Hole in TPC sawgrass for the second time in three hours, Brooks Koepka could only laugh.

“Unfortunate,” he said.

Gary Player famously said that it is better to be lucky than good. But on St. Patrick’s Day, Koepka said good luck was still not with him, despite having Northern Irishman Ricky Elliot on the bag.

“I thought the first five holes were really bad luck,” Koepka said.

Nonetheless, the 31-year-old, a four-time major champion at Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course, got off to a solid start, shooting a bogey-free 4-under 67.

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Koepka was one of several players who were blown away by strong winds at last Saturday’s Players Championship. On Monday Koepka came out to hit the balls and the wind was blowing at 15 mph.

“It felt dead cool,” he said.

On Thursday, red figures were prominent as the wind laid down and conditions softened by rain earlier in the week took some bite out of the Copperhead course.

“I thought I played really solid and didn’t do much wrong,” Koepka said. “Stress free. Three more of them, there I should be.”

It is better to be good than to be lucky for Koepka. He was in good company with the likes of fellow major winners Dustin Johnson, Louis Osthuizen and Stewart Sink at 67.

They are all chasing after Jhontan Vegas, who has the flag of his native Venezuela on his head. Vegas fired 7-under 64, including an eagle from 4 iron to 6 feet that set up the eagle on the first hole, his 10th Of the day Vegas ran out of players early, despite playing in a good wave, which did not have to deal with bad weather.

“But I still screwed up at 17,” Vegas said in his second round of 78 at TPC Sawyers.

He switched back to the old set of Mizuno MP-4 irons and found the Copperhead course more to his liking. Vegas, who hasn’t recorded a single top-10 finish this season, took more than two strokes on the field with his iron game and more than three-and-a-half strokes with his putter.

“Exactly what I needed after last week. The game was there. I took advantage of great conditions this morning,” said Vegas. “Perfect day from here. So, yes, lucky I scored a good 64. ,

Truly the fate of Venezuela.

Vegas was a stroke better than Danny Lee, who birdied four of the first five holes on his way to 6-under 65. Lee Hodges started even better than Lee, making a birdie on his first five holes (number 10-14). First player to birdie in the first five holes of a round in the Valspar Championships since the Shotlink era (since 2003). Grayson Sieg tied Vegas at 7-under until he made a triple bogey on the last hole. But Lee summed up the general spirit of the field on a day when there was a run of red figures.

“I have always loved this place. Tee to green it suits my eyes very well,” said Lee. “I wish I could play like this every day. But it is good to play again in normal conditions, the last two The weeks have been extremely tough and tough both mentally and physically.”

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