Brooks Koepka measures his putt on the ninth green during the second round of the Frys.com Open golf tournament on Friday. Koepka shot a 7-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Jason Kokrak. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
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.
In his first regular PGA Tour event, Koepka surged to the top of the leaderboard Friday in the Frys.com Open with a 7-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Jason Kokrak going into the weekend at CordeValle.
Kokrak, a runner-up at this event last year, hit 6-iron to the par-5 ninth to a foot for eagle and a 65.
Koepka, a 23-year-old Floridian, received a sponsor’s exemption into the PGA Tour season opener between stops in Scotland and Shanghai. He had no status at the start of the 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, he 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.”
It has so far — not just the last two days, but all year.
Koepka, who make eight birdies and an eagle, was at 11-under 131.
With no wind in the afternoon, the cut was at even-par 142. Because more than 78 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut Saturday for the top 70 and ties.
Robert Garrigus (63) and Jim Herman (66) were two shots behind, while Camilo Villegas shot 66 and was another shot behind at 8-under 134. Kevin Tway, son of former PGA champion Bob Tway, had a 65 and was among those at 135. Lurking five shots behind were the Japanese duo of Hideki Matsuyama (66) and Ryo Ishikawa (67).
Koepka 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.
He was at the same course at Q-school where Jordan Spieth failed to advance. Spieth started out on the Web.com Tour, did well enough in his PGA Tour starts to get some money and momentum, and wound up with a win, a PGA Tour card, a trip to the Tour Championship and a spot on the Presidents Cup team.
Koepka, missing the amateur credentials and sponsor exemptions of Spieth, went a different direction.
South Africa. Switzerland. Kenya. Kazakhstan.
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 and making Koepka more nervous than he has been behind the wheel of his luxury courtesy car at CordeValle this week.
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. At least for me, that’s what I want to be able to do — play the European Tour and the PGA Tour. I just need to get established over here a little bit more.”
South Korea’s Ilhee Lee maintained the lead in the LPGA Malaysia, and 18-year-old American Lexi Thompson shot an 8-under 63 to move within one.
Lee had a 65 to reach 13-under 129 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Thompson surged on the back nine with four birdies and an eagle.
China’s Shanshan Feng, coming off a victory Sunday in the Reignwood LPGA Classic in China, was 10 under after a 65. South Korea’s I.K. Kim of South Korea (66) and American Paula Creamer (67) were 9 under.
South Korea’s Amy Yang of South Korea had a tournament-record 62 to reach 8 under.
Larry Nelson shot his age for a share of the lead in the SAS Championship, while Nick Faldo failed to finish the round in his first regular Champions Tour event.
The 66-year-old Nelson had a 6-under 66 to join Russ Cochran and Mark Mouland atop the leaderboard at Prestonwood. Faldo was 1 over after 12 holes when he withdrew because of an elbow injury. He tweaked a torn capsule in his left elbow when he made a gesture during a putt on No. 6.
Defending champion Bernhard Langer was a stroke back along with Kirk Triplett, Mike Goodes, Michael Allen and David Frost.
England’s Paul Waring shot an 8-under 63 Friday for a share of the second-round lead in the European Tour’s Portugal Masters.
South Africa’s Hennie Otto had a 64, and England’s David Lynn a 65 to match Waring at 12-under 130 at Oceanico Victoria.