3M Championship - Koepka

Brooks Koepka tees off on the 11th hole during the first round of the 3M Championship golf tournament at TPC Twin Cities on Thursday.

BLAINE — After lamenting what he considered to be poor conditions at the TPC Twin Cities following his first-round 67 on Thursday, saying it was “unfortunate” that club members left so many ball marks and divots on the course leading up to the 3M Open, the course got the best of the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer during Friday’s second round.

Starting his day on the back nine, and laboring through a couple of hours of play, Brooks Koepka imploded on No. 18, finding the water with his tee shot on his way to a triple-bogey 8 and a nine-hole score of 39.

He bounced back after that, finishing with a pair of birdies down the stretch to salvage a 72, and entered the clubhouse just above the cutline at 3-under 139 for 36 holes.

That’s a far cry from the low score many expected from Koepka entering the weekend, especially considering how he has dominated majors over the past couple of years.

“You want the answer to why I don’t play well in some regular tour events,” Koepka acknowledged. “If I get a week off, I don’t touch the clubs. That’s why I do so well in majors. It’s literally that I’m playing two weeks in a row. I get a good week of practice and then I’m ready to go.”

Before coming to the Twin Cities for the 3M Open, the last competition Koepka played in was the Travelers Championship a couple of weeks ago. He didn’t swing a club in the meantime, and maybe not surprisingly, has looked a little out of sorts so far.

“Just trying to find a rhythm,” he said. “I hit some good shots. I feel like I’m really close. I made some good putts. I also just lacked a little bit of touch. If I clean that up, and get some good work in, and practice a little bit, I’ll be ready to go for the weekend.”

FORMER WSU GOLFER PLAYING WELL

Think of Troy Merritt as an adopted Minnesotan at this point.

While he was born in Osage, Iowa, and currently resides in Boise, Idaho, the 33-year-old has roots in the Twin Cities that date back to his days as a high schooler at Spring Lake Park. He captained the boys golf team in the early 2000s, then went on to play collegiately at Winona State for two years before transferring to Boise State.

While Merritt is ranked No. 188 in the world rankings, he played like one of the best golfers in the field Friday. He shot a 7-under 64 in the second round, and at 8-under overall, was tied for sixth place when he got to the clubhouse.

“They were a lot louder today when more birdies were going on,” Merritt joked when asked about the local support. “Hopefully we can continue that this weekend and see how loud we can get them.”

For those following Merritt, there was a lot to cheer for throughout the second round. He chipped in from 54 feet out on No. 6 for an impressive eagle that helped get things rolling.

“I just nipped it nicely, read it well, and it went right in the center of the cup,” he said. “It’s nice when that happens.”

PUSHING EACH OTHER

Nobody put on a better show Friday than the threesome of Bryson DeChambeau, Charles Howell III and Keegan Bradley.

If it wasn’t DeChambeau tearing up the course on his way to a ridiculous 9-under 62, it was Howell II canning an approach shot from 75 yards out for eagle, or Bradley nailing a 61-foot putt for an unlikely birdie.

“It’s nice as a golfer to see balls going in the hole and see guys going low and doing well,” he said. “Whatever we want to call it, drafting or whatever, I think it matters.”

For the day, DeChambeau shot 62 to take the second-round lead at 14-under 128, Howell shot 66 to get to 134, and Bradley brought up the rear with a 68 and 138 total.

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