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Brooks Koepka bounces back into Masters mix, but missing the patron support


AUGUSTA, Ga. – The lack of patrons this year at the Masters is affecting even the best major player of the past few years.

Brooks Koepka said he’s found it difficult to “grind it out” and focus without folks lining the fairways and greens here at Augusta National. After rounds of 70-69 put him just four shots back heading into the weekend, Koepka rued a few “sloppy” mistakes and “stupid errors.”

“It is a little bit tougher sometimes with no fans to really get in there and grind it out,” he said Friday. “I mean, I’m not going to quit, but just putting it in some stupid places sometimes where it’s like, That’s the one spot you know you can’t miss it, and I put in there.”

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Like when he missed short on the par-4 10th, leading to a bogey.

Or when his putt bounced through the fringe on the par-3 sixth and then missed the 5-foot comebacker.

“I just need to clean that stuff up,” he said. “No bogeys.”

Still, Koepka seemed overly critical of himself after an impressive comeback. Through his first 14 holes of the tournament he was 2 over par, hovering near the bottom of the leaderboard. Then he eagled the 15th and added two more birdies, playing his last four holes in 4 under to salvage a 70. His second round would have been even better if not for a bad break on the fifth hole, where his pitch clanked off the flagstick and rolled back to the bottom of the hill.

No one has been better in the strokes gained: tee to green category over the past few years at Augusta National. Koepka also has the best cumulative score to par in the majors since 2016 (73 under par), nearly 70 shots better than the next-best player, Dustin Johnson, who now shares the Masters lead at 9 under.

Asked about his position heading into the weekend, as he looks to win a major for the fourth consecutive year, and his fifth title overall, Koepka said: “Not very good. It could have been so much better. I was super sloppy. Just making stupid mistakes. I need to clean those up for the weekend, and I’ll be fine.”