SAN MARTIN, Calif.
On a day of low scoring, Brooks Koepka kept up his end of the bargain and stayed in the lead at the Frys.com Open.
Two strokes behind him is Warren JFK graduate Jason Kokrak.
In his first regular PGA Tour event, Koepka rolled in two birdies putts to start his round Saturday and drove the par-4 17th green for another birdie. It added to a 4-under 67 and a two-shot lead over George McNeill and Kokrak going into the final round at CordeValle.
A win would mean more than just a trip to the Masters for Koepka.
The 23-year-old Floridian started the year with no status on any tour, and since then has earned membership on the Challenge Tour and European Tour.
A victory today would give him a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and keep him from having to reload the pages in his passport. He already has played in 15 countries this year, with three victories on the Challenge Tour.
“The Challenge Tour prepared me pretty well,” Koepka said. “Learning how to win is a big deal.”
CordeValle was set up for low scoring on a Saturday of ample sunshine and very little wind.
McNeill made 10 birdies in his round of 62 that put him in the last group with Koepka. McNeill is a two-time winner on the PGA Tour. He has never played in the Masters because both wins were opposite-field events that didn’t award full FedEx Cup points.
“I’m going for the record to win the most times without qualifying,” McNeill said.
That’s no longer the case.
The Frys.com Open is the first event on the 2013-14 PGA Tour schedule, which has gone to a wraparound season for the first time in history. It’s the start of the FedEx Cup season, offering full points, meaning the winner goes to Augusta National.
Kokrak started his day by holing out from 129 yards in the first fairway for eagle, and he nearly ended his third round the same way. He settled for a short birdie putt and a 68 that kept him in the game.
“It was an awesome shot,” Kokrak said of his opening hole eagle. “I spun it right back to the hole.”
Kokrak finished in a tie for second place in this same tournament last season.
“It’s a good golf course for me,” said Kokrak, who is still looking for his first PGA Tour win. “I can use my length to my advantage. There are places I can play aggressively and places I can play it safe. If I can hit a few more fairways, tomorrow might be my day.”
Koepka was at 15-under 198. He has played every major once except the Masters, though this is his first regular PGA Tour start. He was between stops in Scotland (Dunhill Links) and Shanghai (BMW Masters) when he received a sponsor exemption to the Frys.com Open.
Jimmy Walker also had a 62 and was three shots behind with Robert Garrigus (68) and Vijay Singh, the 50-year-old Fijian making his first PGA Tour start in nearly two months. Singh hit driver on the par-4 17th hole up the back of the green, back down the slope to about 2 feet for an eagle. That carried him to a 65.
The average score was 68.8, and Koepka had one of the 24 rounds at 67 or better. Only six players were over par, led by Camilo Villegas with a 77 that dropped him out of contention. It could have been worse for the Colombian. He tried playing a shot from the water in front of the ninth green, and the ball hit off the bank and nearly struck him.