PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Brooks Koepka says the Honda Classic’s tough conditions remind him of a major championship.
That’s not good for the rest of the field, not if Koepka keeps that kind of mentality going.
The guy has won two of the last three majors, and three of the last seven.
With a 1-under-par 69 Friday, Koepka sits tied for fourth at 4-under overall, two shots behind Sungjae Im (64) and Keith Mitchell (66).
“I’ve obviously put myself in a good spot to have a chance to win,” Koepka said. “I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve done that.”
Tough setups and difficult conditions, they bring out the best in Koepka, and that’s what PGA National’s Champion Course consistently offers. A lot of birdies can be made here, but there’s trouble almost everywhere, with wind and water bringing bogeys and worse into play.
The winning scores are usually major-like, with five of the last six Honda Classic champions ending the week at single digits under par.
The new greens this year, firm surfaces that make getting the ball close to the hole tougher than usual, add to the challenge.
“These greens have definitely firmed up, baked out, and it can be difficult with this wind, and they’ve put the pins in some tough spots,” Koepka said. “Par is not too bad.
“It kind of reminds me of a major championship, in some ways.”
That’s how Koepka wants it.
“I love it when it plays tough,” he said. “I love when the wind is up. I love the firm greens and the Bermuda.”
And despite some mediocre finishes in his four starts here, Koepka loves to be at home, in Palm Beach County, where he grew up and where he still lives.
“I’m excited to be back on some Bermuda grass,” he said. “It’s a good spot for me.”
Koepka, 28, stands out on a leaderboard that is remarkably undistinguished.
The co-leaders, Im and Mitchell, have combined for zero PGA Tour titles.
They’ve combined to play in two majors, one less than Koepka has won.
Lucas Glover is the only player besides Koepka among the top 12 who has won a major championship. In fact, Glover is the only player besides Koepka in that group who has won more than one PGA Tour title, but Glover hasn’t won a title in eight years.
Koepka is No. 4 in the world rankings.
Im is the only other player among the top 100 in the world sitting T-12 or better. He’s ranked No. 87.
“I just want to feel comfortable, because that’s where I’ve struggled the last couple weeks, and it’s coming along,” Koepka said. “Being on Bermuda is definitely a big help.”
Koepka won the CJ Cup in October for his fifth PGA Tour title. He’s looking for his first top 10 in a PGA Tour start this year, though he tied for ninth at Abu Dhabi in January on the European Tour.
There’s growing confidence this week. If not for one bad swing at the fifth that led to a double bogey Friday, he would be tied for the lead.
“It’s a good spot for me, just need to clean a few things up this weekend and not hit any more balls in the water on the par 3s,” he said.
And to keep telling himself this feels like a major.