REUTERS - Having already thrived on a steep early learning curve as a globe-trotting golfer, American Brooks Koepka looked completely at home as he charged one shot clear at the Frys.com Open in San Martin, California on Friday.
The 23-year-old, a non-member of the PGA Tour where he is competing for the first time in a regular event, took advantage of ideal scoring conditions on a sun-splashed day at CordeValle Golf Club by firing a seven-under-par 64 in the second round.
Koepka, shrugging off two bogeys in his first five holes, piled up eight birdies and an eagle at the par-five 15th to post an 11-under total of 131 in the opening event of the PGA Tour’s 2013-14 season.
Big-hitting American Jason Kokrak eagled his final hole, the par-five ninth, for a 65 to sit alone in second, a stroke better than compatriots Robert Garrigus (63) and Jim Herman (66).
Colombian Camilo Villegas (66) was a further shot back at eight under.
But it was Koepka, a former three-time All-American at Florida State University, who commanded the spotlight as he took control of the tournament by covering his last 13 holes in seven under par.
“It was good,” the American told Golf Channel, having made two bogeys and two birdies in his first five holes after teeing off at the par-four 10th before surging up the leaderboard.
“It got off to a bit of a shaky start, made a couple of bogeys early on, but I hung in there and played well.”
The Florida native has learned a great deal about golf and life in general after holding no status as a professional at the start of this year and deciding to compete on the lower-tier Challenge Tour in Europe.
Koepka triumphed three times on that circuit this season to secure his playing privileges on the European Tour and would also earn a PGA Tour card if he can win this week at CordeValle.
“I like to be by myself, and travelling the world you get to be alone a little bit,” Koepka said of his successful 2013 campaign which took in, he estimates, 15 different countries.
“Going over there gave me the opportunity to really focus on golf, get away from everything else, and I was able to do that.”
Asked what had been his biggest lesson learned on the Challenge Tour, Koepka replied: ”I think staying patient with everything. Everything doesn’t come easy all the time.
“You just stay patient and try to enjoy the ride. It’s great golf over there in Europe and I’ve really enjoyed learning about the cultures and everything else. It’s been fun.”
Overnight leader Jeff Overton, who had opened with a flawless 64, followed up with a 72 to end the round five strokes off the pace.
The cut fell at even-par 142 with former major winners Angel Cabrera, Retief Goosen, Lucas Glover and Ben Curtis among those who failed to advance. (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)