PARAMUS, N.J. — Brooks Koepka was just going along in a middling way, enduring ups and downs, when suddenly, he said, “Something clicked.” That was his explanation for playing the last seven holes in 6 under par.
It also could describe his season and perhaps his career. He has dramatically taken off, winning two majors in the past two months and three of the last six he has entered.
He kept his momentum rolling with a sizzling finish Friday, tying for first through two rounds of the Northern Trust. Koepka birdied the final three holes to catch Jamie Lovemark at 10 under and set up what figures to be a lively weekend.
“When you get out on the golf course, you’re just trying to build a rhythm,’’ Koepka said. “Sometimes it doesn’t go as perfectly as you’d like and then you make one good golf swing and all of a sudden you’ve got that feeling.”
He and Lovemark are one shot ahead of Adam Scott, who played with Koepka in the final group at the PGA Championship two weeks ago and shot 7-under 64 Friday.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau are at 8 under heading into the third round Saturday at Ridgewood Country Club.
Tiger Woods earned the right to stay around and participate, barely. He had an awful putting round with 35 strokes (ranked 111th for the day in strokes gained putting), finished at par and made the cut on the number.
“No matter how good you hit your golf ball tee to green, you’ve still got to hole it,” Woods said after three-putting the 18th for a second consecutive 71. “Today was one of those days when I didn’t make anything.”
Getting the ball to fall was no problem for the co-leaders. Lovemark is first in the field in strokes gained putting, having taken only 51 through the two rounds. “I try to make every putt I hit. Kind of the aim-small, miss-small philosophy,” said the 30-year-old, who is seeking his first PGA Tour victory. “I think if you narrow your focus and target, you’ll have better results.”
Koepka has sharpened his focus since he won the U.S. Open last year, following it up with victories at Shinnecock Hills in June and the PGA in St. Louis recently.
Through 11 holes Friday, in this opening segment of the FedEx Cup playoffs, he was somewhat frustrated at having played par golf with two birdies and two bogeys.
He made birdie out of a bunker on the 291-yard par-4 12th, whaled away with a driver on the par-5 13th and then pulled out a 3-wood for his second shot. “Something clicked in my golf swing hitting that 3-wood,” Koepka said. “It happens, I would say, maybe twice during a tournament or twice a month.”
This time it produced a draw that landed on the green and led to an eagle 3. After that, he just kept setting up and letting it fly.
“I think people don’t realize I’ve simplified the game so much,” he said. “There’s no swing thought. There’s no anything. I’m not trying to work on anything when I’m out there. I’m just trying to hit the correct shot.”
Lovemark is not a powerful figure like Koepka or Johnson, who shot 67 despite making triple-bogey 7 on No. 1. But there is no telling how his career might have gone had he not needed back surgery eight years ago.
On Friday, he showed flashes of the kid he was when he won the 2007 NCAA title as a USC freshman. “I think I’ve had a very successful career,” he said. “I had a tough start to my career, but it only made me stronger.”
He is a big football fan and a big believer in a young guy from his alma mater, Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. “Looks good so far,” Lovemark said. “I wish him the best. Looks like a great prospect and he’s a hell of a player.”