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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Brooks Koepka gingerly made his way around Augusta National Golf Club on his ailing knee, taking a seat on the benches on tee boxes when needed in Thursday’s first round of the Masters Tournament and finishing with 2-over-par 74.
Koepka, who had surgery on his right knee on March 16, insisted that it didn’t affect his play.
His five-bogey, three-birdie trip ended a 10-round streak of shooting under par in the Masters.
“I just didn’t swing it great. It’s tired right now, I’m not going to lie,” Koepka said of his knee. “But I’ve just got to play better.”
Koepka’s surgery repaired a knee cap dislocation and ligament tear after he slipped at his house in early March in what he described on Thursday as a “freak accident.” At the time, there was serious doubt if the four-time major champion would be able to play in the Masters. But he’s been here practicing since Sunday.
“It’s not getting any worse, only getting better every day with what we do,” said Koepka, whose doctor told him he can’t make the injury worse by playing. “It feels a helluva lot better than it did a week ago.”
Koepka, who is ranked No. 11 in the world and won earlier this season in Phoenix, felt he was unlucky on some of his shots into the swirling wind.
“It’s blowing. It can go from blowing 15 (mph) to zero pretty quick out here and I caught in the middle of some of those,” said Koepka, who also compared the firmness of the greens to what the players usually see “maybe late Sunday afternoon.”
The swirling wind tricked him on the par-3 12th hole, where he hit it over the green and then looked up at the trees in surprise.
“Could have used that wind dying down two years ago, that would have nice,” said Koepka, who had double bogey on No. 12 in the final round in 2019 and ended up tying for second.
On Thursday, Koepka was heading in the wrong direction after bogeys on Nos. 10, 12, 13 and 14 put him at 4 over. He battled back with birdies on Nos. 15 (a 5-foot putt) and No. 16 (a 7-footer) and parred the final two for his 74.
“If I’d birdied No. 13, I’d shot even par on a tough day (and) you’d feel all right. Just a bad swing there,” said Koepka, who put his second shot in the Rae’s Creek tributary.