3 things you should know after Round 1 at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka tees off on the 9th hole at TPC Southwind on Thursday.

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The leader hasn’t won since he won this tournament last year. The leader hasn’t finished better than 7th since the PGA Tour returned to play in mid-June – with two missed cuts. The leader has said his surgically repaired left knee has not improved. On Wednesday, the leader said he wasn’t worried. On Thursday, the leader played worry-free. Here are three things you should know after Thursday’s first round of the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis, Tenn.     

Brooks Koepka leads 

Brooks Koepka was asked Wednesday if he still carries a confident mindset despite his struggles. 

“I’m defending, aren’t I?” Koepka asked.

Yes.

“OK. Just checking.”

His play on Thursday was as sharp as the answer. 

Birdies on his first four holes. Nine overall. Koepka shot an 8-under 62, tying a career best, to take a two-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd. 

“Yeah, I played good and drove it well, putted well, chipped it well,” Koepka said. “Did everything very solid. Missed it in the correct spots and never really felt like I was having to work too hard out there, so that’s a little different than it has been. I guess that’s why I put in all the work.

Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas contending 

Fowler, too, has struggled. No wins since the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February of 2019. No finish higher than tied for 12th since the Tour’s return – with three missed cuts. 

Fowler, too, played well on Thursday. 

He birdied seven holes to shoot a 6-under 64 to sit in a tie for second with Todd. 

“Today was an accumulation of the work last week and just freeing myself up and simplifying thoughts and just playing golf versus working on the range,” Fowler said. “I was able to get a lot of good work with the putter last week and get myself back into some better positions to free up the putter. I was pulling a lot of putts, I was kind of tense with it, so it’s nice to see things kind of pay off.”

Sung Kang is fourth after a 5-under 65, and Justin Thomas, Max Homa and Chez Reavie are tied for fifth after 4-under 66s. Among the group at 3-under are Bryson DeChambeau and Phil Mickelson

Rory McIlroy struggles

The world’s second-ranked player struggled for 15 holes. 

Rory McIlroy was 2-over after five holes. He bogeyed his 13th, 14th and 15th holes. He then played his final three holes at 2-under for a 3-over 73, which tied him for 67th in the 78-player field. 

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor