Koepka stays the course in Memphis

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Brooks Koepka shed his fellow first-round pace-setters to take the sole lead after the second round of the St. Jude Classic.

The American was in a three-way tie at the top after Thursday’s first-round at TPC Southwind, but fellow leaders Ryan Palmer and Greg Owen both fell off the pace as Koepka’s three-under-par 67 earned him a one-shot lead.

Palmer shot a one-over 71 to drop down to five under par, while Owen had a level-par 70 to join six others on six under.

The 25-year-old Koepka mixed four birdies with a single bogey to take the lead on nine under.

“Playing solid golf, no mistakes, being very patient, waiting for my opportunities to come,” Koepka said. “And when they have come, I’ve kind of taken advantage of them, but I still feel like I could be about 5, 6 under par … Really haven’t been firing on all cylinders, but good enough to be at the top.”

Koepka lies one shot clear of little-known Austin Walker, who finished 11th at the Shell Houston Open in April, having gained entry into that tournament through the Monday qualifier.

Walker’s 64 was the joint lowest round of the day.

Lying a shot further back is New Zealander Steven Alker (68), with Englishman Owen among a large group on six under.

Alker became the first player to reach 10 under par earlier in the day, but a bogey, double-bogey finish at 17 and 18 saw him drop back down to third.

“I let it slip at the end,” Alker said. “That’s the type of golf course it is.”

Still, World No 389 Alker isn’t exactly used to being in the top-three heading into the weekend at a PGA Tour event, and will take it regardless.

“It’s fun. I haven’t been in this position all year,” he said. “A bad finish but a lot of positives.”

Phil Mickelson is six shots back following rounds of 68 and 69. The left-hander had a lot of near-misses on the greens, but didn’t feel the greens were unfair.

“They don’t owe me anything,” he said. “They’re trickier because they’re fast.”

“There aren’t holes that are just ‘gimme’ birdies that can kind of kick-start your round,” he said. “But if I can shoot 5, 6, 7 under par, I’ll be right in contention on Sunday.”

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