Thursday, June 21, 2018

All-FSU final pairing highlights PGA Tour opener

SAN MARTIN, Calif. — On a day of low scoring, former Florida State standout Brooks Koepka kept up his end of the bargain and stayed in the lead at the Open.

In his first regular PGA Tour event, Koepka rolled in two birdies putts to start his round Saturday and drove the par-4 17th green for another birdie. It added up to 4-under 67 and a two-shot lead over George McNeill and Jason Kokrak going into the final round at CordeValle.

A win would mean more than just a Masters trip for Koepka.

The 23-year-old from Wellington in Palm Beach County started the year with no status on any tour but since then has earned membership on the Challenge Tour and European Tour. A victory would give him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and keep him from having to reload the pages in his passport. He already has played in 15 countries this year, with three victories on the Challenge Tour.

"The Challenge Tour prepared me pretty well," Koepka said. "Learning how to win is a big deal."

McNeill made 10 birdies in his round of 62 that put him in the last group with Koepka, making for an all-FSU final pairing. McNeill of Naples played at FSU in the late '90s; Koepka graduated last year.

McNeill is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. He has never played in the Masters because both wins were opposite-field events that didn't award full FedEx Cup points.

"I'm going for the record to win the most times without qualifying," McNeill said.

That's no longer the case. The Open is the first event on the 2013-14 PGA schedule, which has gone to a wraparound season for the first time. It's the start of the FedEx Cup season, offering full points, meaning the winner goes to Augusta National.

Kokrak started his day holing out from 129 yards in the first fairway for eagle and nearly ended his round the same way. He settled for a short birdie putt and 68 for 15-under 198. He has played every major once except the Masters, though this is his first regular PGA start. He was between stops in Scotland (Dunhill Links) and Shanghai (BMW Masters) when he received a sponsor exemption to the Open.

LPGA: Lexi Thompson moved into position for her second tour title, shooting 5-under 66 for a three-stroke lead in the LPGA Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur. The 18-year-old American had five birdies in her bogey-free round to reach 17-under 196. South Korea's Ilhee Lee was second after shooting 70. Seminole's Brittany Lincicome (74) was at par 213

Champions: Russ Cochran shot his second straight 6-under 66 for a two-stroke lead after the second round of the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C. The left-hander was at 12-under 132. Defending champ Bernhard Langer, Kirk Triplett and David Frost were tied for second, each shooting a second straight 67.

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