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The defending champ Brooks Koepka matched his career best with an 8-under 62 to take a two-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler and Brendon Todd after the first round of the FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

 

A week after missing the cut in Minnesota in the 3M Open, Koepka had nine birdies and a bogey on a windy day at TPC Southwind in the World Golf Championship event. 

 

He needed 26 putts after working earlier this week with Phil Kenyon.

 

Fowler, who last missed the cut at Memorial, chipped in from 30 feet to tie Koepka. Then Fowler two-putted for bogey after putting his tee shot in the left rough on his final hole to finish at 64.

 

It was Fowler’s lowest round after missing three cuts since the PGA Tour’s return to play in June.

Sung Kang shot 65. Justin Thomas, who can move back to No. 1 in the world with a victory, shot a 66 and was tied with Matt Kuchar, Chez Reavie and Max Homa.

 

Jon Rahm, playing his first event since becoming No. 1 with a win at Memorial, shot 70.

 

Rory McIlroy also could move back to No. 1 with a win. He opened with a 73.

 

Koepka, teeing off in the next-to-last group, made clear his injured left knee won’t slow down his title defense. He birdied his first four holes to shoot up the leaderboard and went to 4 under to share the lead with Bryson DeChambeau after rolling in a 23-footer for birdie on the par-3 No. 4.

 

Tee times for the second round were moved to Friday morning to avoid predicted thunderstorms. 

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