For about two hours of the third round, Brooks Koepka appeared on cruise control in his effort to keep pace with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Champions.
Koepka started the day one shot behind Johnson, and he took the lead after rolling in birdies on each of his first three holes. But his charge came undone with a triple bogey on the par-5 eighth hole which sparked a five-hole run in which he was 5 over. Koepka was tied with Johnson on the eighth tee, but after a closing bogey he signed for a 1-over 73 and now trails by six shots.
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Full-field scores from the WGC-HSBC Champions
“There were five holes that were just a disaster there from 8 to 12,” Koepka told reporters. “The start was really good. The first seven holes I thought was pretty solid, and the rest of it very up-and-down.”
Koepka had played his first 43 holes in 15 under before encountering trouble on No. 8, a hole where Johnson made birdie to create a four-shot swing. Even when Johnson made double on No. 10, Koepka countered with bogey after missing the green with a wedge to only gain a shot. He then lost two more in the next two holes between a Johnson birdie on No. 11 and his own bogey on No. 12.
Koepka remains in search of his third career PGA Tour victory and first since claiming the U.S. Open this summer, but he’s keenly aware that the feat of catching Johnson became much more difficult because of his mid-round hiccup.
“Just keep doing what I’m doing,” Koepka said. “Today, I don’t know what happened from 8 on. It was kind of very disappointing – very blah. I didn’t really make any putts, like those momentum putts. I didn’t make one of those.”