Well-traveled Brooks Koepka is suprise leader of Frys.com Open

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SAN MARTIN, Calif. — After a year spent traveling the world, Brooks Koepka suddenly is in a position to play a lot more golf at home.

Brooks Koepka's 64 gave him a one-shot lead in the PGA Tour's season-opening Frys.com Open. Koepka has been playing the European Tour's developmental tour.  MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS
MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Brooks Koepka's 64 gave him a one-shot lead in the PGA Tour's season-opening Frys.com Open. Koepka has been playing the European Tour's developmental tour.

In his first regular PGA Tour event, Koepka surged to the top of the leaderboard Friday in the Frys.com Open with 7-under-par 64, giving him a one-shot lead.

Koepka received a sponsor exemption between stops in Scotland and Shanghai.

The 23-year-old Floridian had no status at the start of this year after failing to advance beyond the second stage of Q-school last year. Instead of trying to qualify for Web.com Tour events, Koepka packed his bags and passport for a 15-country journey that has served him well.

He won three times on the Challenge Tour to earn his European Tour card. He played the Dunhill Links in Scotland two weeks ago and in two weeks heads to the BMW Masters in Shanghai.

If he were to win the Frys.com Open, Koepka would have a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

“There’s no pressure. Just enjoying it right now,” Koepka said. “Looking forward to the weekend. I don’t see any pressure. Yeah, it would be big. Obviously be nice to win and get status over here. But you play good, everything kind of takes care of itself.”

Koepka, who make eight birdies and an eagle, is at 11-under 131.

Jason Kokrak had 65 and is one shot behind Koepka.

Robert Garrigus (63) and Jim Herman (66) are two shots behind, while Camilo Villegas shot 66 and is another shot behind at 8-under 134.

North Augusta’s Scott Brown (68-67) is one of four players four shots off the lead.

Koepka picked a good week to display his length and skill.

He made most of his birdies with a wedge in his hand, and picked up two more birdies on the par 5s by missing eagle attempts from about 12 feet.

Much like the European Tour, its developmental circuit goes all over the world. Like the time in Kenya that his driver turned a 15-minute trip into over three hours, stopping on side streets along the way.

Sure, he thought about how much more comfortable it would have been to try a Web.com Tour schedule mainly in America. But he wouldn’t trade the experience.

“You’re traveling the world at 23,” Koepka said. “That’s good. And it’s a good experience playing overseas. I think you’ll see a lot more guys doing it. ... I think everybody wants to be a worldwide player.”

The tournament is only halfway over, though Koepka is surely helped by having won four times in the last year on the Challenge Tour in Europe.

Herman also is on good form, though he can be excused if this doesn’t feel like a PGA Tour opener. His offseason was one week. Herman played well late in the year but still didn’t make it to the FedEx Cup playoffs. He played four of five weeks in the Web.com Tour Finals to earn his card back, and one week later, he was at CordeValle putting up rounds of 67-66 to assure himself a late tee time Saturday.

The low round Friday came from Andres Gonzalez, who also could use a big week.

Gonzalez thought he had his card wrapped up at the Web.com Tour Championship until Lee Williams made a 55-foot birdie putt on the last hole, and Andrew Loupe made a 5-foot par putt right behind him to knock Gonzalez out. He’s only in the Frys.com Open because he finished in the top 10 in the previous PGA Tour event in August.

Gonzalez shot a 62 and was five shots out of the lead.

LOCAL INTEREST

SCOTT BROWN

North Augustan

Score 68-67

Shots back 4

WILL CLAXTON

Swainsboro, Ga.*

Score 70-72

Shots back 11

CHARLES HOWELL

Augusta native

Score 72-70

Shots back 11

KEVIN KISNER

Aiken native

Score 73-69

Shots back 11

BRIAN GAY

Louisville, Ga.*

Score 72-71

Shots back MC

PATRICK REED

Ex-Augusta State golfer

Score 75-70

Shots back MC

BLAKE ADAMS Swainsboro, Ga.

Score 80-70

Shots back MC

* former resident


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