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Brooks Koepka has strong start in bid for three-peat

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Scores were surprisingly low after the first round of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, but not expected to last.
Golfweek, USA TODAY NETWORK

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Brooks Koepka’s chase to join Willie Anderson in the history books got off to a nice start Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Not that anyone should be surprised.

It is a major, after all.

The world No. 1, who’s won four of the last eight majors he’s played and is the only player in history to hold back-to-back titles in two majors simultaneously, shot a 2-under-par 69 at Pebble Beach to place himself well within range of winning a third consecutive U.S. Open.

He did so without his best stuff. For the first time in his last 12 rounds in a major, Koepka ended the day outside of the top 10 despite electrifying the galleries at this seaside gem with four birdies in his first six holes.

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But just when it looked like he was about to take control of another major, Koepka started to miss fairways and greens and had to rely on an outstanding short game to stay in red numbers.

He made three bogeys in his last 12 holes and mustered just one more red number when he made birdie on the 12th. Still, Koepka said he was pleased with the day and remains on track to join Anderson as the only players to win the U.S. Open in three consecutive years. Koepka will begin his second round Friday four shots back.

“I felt very comfortable right out of the gates,” said Koepka, just one of seven players to win consecutive U.S. Opens. “Unfortunately, on the back nine, I didn’t hit it very well. I just didn’t find the fairways. And then I missed greens. But I made a lot of good up-and-downs.

“You know this golf course you’re going to struggle on when you miss it. And to grind out a couple of pars and really not make the big mistake was nice. I happened to squeak one by on 18.”

That would be when his tee shot on the par-5 finishing hole nearly went out of bounds but hit a row of bushes and stayed in play. But the ball wound up on the cart path and Koepka decided to hit it off the concrete instead of taking a drop into what he thought would have been a worse lie.

He laid up with a 6-iron off the path and made par.

As soon as Koepka wrapped up his duties he headed to the driving range.

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“I’m happy with how I came out of the gates,” Koepka said. “You can shoot yourself out of it on the first day and I didn’t do it.”

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