What a difference a year makes.
Brooks Koepka leads The Masters by three strokes after storms suspended the second round. The American’s previous Friday at Augusta National, having missed the cut, ended very differently.
“I think last year, I don’t even know if I should be saying this, but pretty sure I tried to break the back window with my fist of the car,” Koepka told reporters.
“Not once but twice. First time didn’t go, so figured try it again. It was a lot of frustration last year, super annoying, but I’ve come a long way since then.”
Much of that frustration, Koepka added, was health related.
Multiple injuries – including a torn patella tendon and a shattered knee – had compounded a painful fall from the summit for the former world No. 1. After winning four majors in a historic run between 2017 and 2019, two years later Koepka admitted to wondering if his career might be over.
The LIV Golf star’s struggle to come to terms with his drop off was laid bare in Netflix’s “Full Swing” docuseries, but in March Koepka told CNN he was out of his “funk” and focused on a fifth major title.
The aim was to be up to speed by The Masters, and Koepka has kept his word, setting a furious early pace on his eighth appearance at Augusta.
Having opened with seven-under 65 to lead from the front with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland, Koepka took advantage of an earlier tee off time Friday to pull ahead of the duo with a second round 67.
Rahm closed the gap to three shots before the horn blew halfway through his round, while Norway’s Hovland sits six shots adrift of the leader with eight holes left to play.
An eagle at the eighth helped Koepka tie the third-lowest score through two rounds in Masters history, just two shots shy of Jordan Spieth’s 2015 record of 130, according to the PGA Tour.
A two-time winner at the US Open and PGA Championship respectively, a first green jacket would edge the 32-year-old Floridian closer to “the whole goal”: the career grand slam.
“I feel like all the greats have won here and they have all won British Opens as well,” Koepka said.
“I guess it’s one more box for me to tick to truly feel like I’ve done what I should have accomplished in this game.”
Only six players have ever won all four majors, a number set to remain unchanged for at least one more year after Rory McIlroy endured another painful afternoon at Augusta National.
The Northern Irishman arrived in Georgia a green jacket away from completing the career slam but left himself with an uphill climb after an even-par 72 left him tied for 37th following the first round.
Things went from bad to worse on Friday as seven bogeys plunged McIlroy to a five-over 77. When play was suspended, McIlroy was tied for 61st, three shots away from the projected cut line and all but guaranteed to miss the weekend for the third time in his 15 Masters appearances.
Tiger Woods’ hopes of making it to the third round remain in the balance. The five-time Masters champions sits on the projected cut line at two-over par with seven holes of his second round left to play.
Amateur Sam Bennett starred once again, shooting a second consecutive four-under 68 to end the day four strokes behind Koepka. The 23-year-old Texan has stolen hearts at Augusta National, playing with a tattoo that illustrates the final piece of his advice from his father, who died after a battle with Alzheimer’s disease in 2021.
Play resume∂ at 8:00 a.m. ET on Saturday but with more rain expected, further delays could be possible.