PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Brooks Koepka’s only birdie on Friday happened without the help of his putter, which made all the sense in the world.
The highest-ranked player in The Honda Classic field this week simply couldn’t score, and his tournament is over. Koepka missed six putts inside of 10 feet on Friday on his way to a second consecutive round of 4-over 74, leaving him at 8 over for the week and well outside the cut line at what essentially is his home tournament.
“Struck it really well,” said Koepka, the world’s third-ranked player. “Really pleased with how I’m hitting it. Putter, I just haven’t putted well. And every time I have missed one, I’ve hit some good shots ... it’s very easy out here to turn a decent round into a little bit of a disaster.”
His lone birdie Friday was on the par-4 2nd hole, his 11th of the day, when he holed a chip from about 15 yards. The rest: one bogey, two double-bogeys and 14 pars.
And when it was over, he did not blame any issues on his left knee -- on which he had stem cell treatment last fall to relieve pain.
“I’m fine. Everything’s good. No complaints,” Koepka said. “It’s nothing to do with my knee. It’s just me.”
Koepka started the day at 4 over, knowing it would probably take a round a shot or two below par to ensure his spot for the weekend.
He started on the 10th tee and had birdie chances on each of the first three holes, though none of them exactly of the realistic variety: they averaged about 35 feet in length, and all were turned into pars.
The par-4 13th was the start of his undoing. His tee ball went into the pine needles to the right of the fairway and his approach skidded off the green. Koepka hit a neat chip to about 10 feet but missed the par putt and the relative tap-in for bogey lipped out — leaving him with a double-bogey 6 and sending him to 6 over for the week.
“Maybe need a little bit more touch around the greens, a little more feel,” Koepka said.
By the time he got to the 16th green, there was a mean reminder of his troubles: A ribbon video board surrounding the putting surface, his name next to a big red square telling the world in about 2-foot-high type that he was tied for 117th at the time.
And when his chance for momentum arrived after making the turn, he squandered it. Koepka made birdie at the par-4 2nd and had a 4-footer for another on the par-5 3rd. But he missed that short one and made double-bogey again two holes later.
His fate was sealed, and by lunchtime his Honda Classic was over. He plans to play the Arnold Palmer Invitational next week, the second of what would be five consecutive weeks of tournaments — Bay Hill will be followed by The Players, Valspar and the WGC-Dell Match Play.
“I think I’ve played about 18 rounds since August,” Koepka said. “Just need to pick it up a little bit.”