2018 CJ Cup: Brooks Koepka vying for win and world No. 1 in South Korea after Round 2
Can Koepka win a non-major this week?
Brooks Koepka took a big Brooks Koepka-sized stride toward becoming the No. 1 player in the world on Friday with his 65 in Round 2 of the CJ Cup on Jeju Island in South Korea. According to the mathematicians at Golf Channel, Koepka needs to win or finish second this week (barring a Justin Thomas win) to rise to No. 1 in the world for the first time in his career. He's now in position to do that as he's 8 under after two rounds, one back of leader Scott Piercy.
On a much easier day on the island in which there were 22 rounds in the 60s (there were three on Thursday), Koepka tied Piercy for the second-best score of the day behind Brian Harman's 64. Koepka went out in 33 and closed like the three-time major champion he is with an eagle on the final hole for the 65.
"I'm not thinking about anything," Koepka said. "It's pretty simple, I just go. I mean, I guess you can call it like caveman golf. You see the ball, hit the ball and go find it again. I'm trying to shoot the best score I can, it doesn't matter if it's 5 over, 7 under. It doesn't matter.
"I'm still just trying to grind it out and shoot the best score I can. Trying to enjoy it and have fun, but I would say you're not going to see any emotion just because I'm so focused, but I'm enjoying it."
What Koepka would really enjoy is a third win in 2018 following his victories at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship (as well as PGA Tour Player of the Year honors) to cap off what has been the best year of his career. As he reminded everyone of on Friday, he actually missed a large swath of the year with a wrist injury so he feels good about his game, his swing and his body.
"I had four months off at the beginning of the year, so probably fresher than most guys, which is nice," Koepka said. "Excited to start the season off."
If he stays where he's at, he'll be starting off the season as the new No. 1 player in the world. It would be the first time for him, the eighth time for an American and the 23rd time overall for a new No. 1 player in the world to be crowned. There's still a ways to go, but with a two-shot buffer between himself and third place, Koepka looks like he's poised to do just that.
Three more takeaways from Round 2 of the CJ Cup.
1. Paul Casey's ace-y: Casey shot a 1-over 73 on Friday, but he did have this sweet hole-in-one on the par-3 seventh hole.
"I thought it was short all the way," Casey said. "I gave up on it and the guys in the group thought, 'No, no, hang on, it's still rolling.' I just saw it on TV and it just got there. Really cool, it's always a cool feeling. First hole-in-one in Korea as well. It's my ninth hole-in-one but first one in Korea, so pretty cool."
2. All of the sauce: Justin Thomas muttering, "Go in, please go in" from 353 yards away is the greatest thing I have seen all week. I want to do an hour on my podcast next week on this shot. Thomas is 1 under and T22 at the halfway point.
3. Unprepared Piercy cruises: Piercy, who leads at the halfway point after his 65 on Friday, is looking for the fifth PGA Tour win of his career this week, but he said the cold, windy conditions in South Korea caught him off guard to the point that he had to buy a floppy-eared hat in the pro shop!
"The difference between CIMB and here obviously is about 25 degrees temperature wise," Piercy said. "I definitely like the heat better. When it's cold like this, the ball probably travels about 10 to 15 yards shorter and obviously you've got a bunch more clothes on, you're not sweating like you were last week.
"As far as the hat goes, I was not prepared for the cold weather here. I had to go to the Titleist store and buy rain gear, a hat and thermals. I definitely enjoy the heat a lot more than the cold."
I bet he enjoys the cold more this week if he hangs on for the win.
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