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Rested, not rusty, Koepka goes straight back into major contention

SOUTHPORT, England -- Brooks Koepka isn't giving up much. After all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But one thing the U.S. Open champion acknowledged was his golf clubs did not travel to Sin City in the aftermath of his triumph last month at Erin Hills.

Aside from one round with his manager and another day for a photo shoot, Koepka did not pick up a golf club in the aftermath of his victory until arriving in England last Friday.

So much for the need to knock off competitive rust and keep the game sharp.

Koepka had an eagle, four birdies and a single bogey for a 65 on Thursday during the opening round of The Open at Royal Birkdale.

He's now broken par in seven straight major championship rounds and is acting like a guy who expected little else.

"If I'm mentally recharged . . . I've done the same thing for years,'' Koekpa said. "So it shouldn't take too long to get back into it. But it was nice to get over here early and just kind of get a feel for the golf course and play again.''

Koepka said that, on the Saturday night of the U.S. Open, he made the decision to head to Las Vegas for a celebratory get-together with some of his friends. From there, he went to Los Angeles and then Atlanta and did not return to his Jupiter, Florida, home until July 1.

In the 13 days between the time he got home and got on a plane for The Open, Koepka's golf consisted of that one round with his manager. He got back in the gym -- "That was the one thing that was kind of tough after everything we did, going to Vegas and all'' -- and appeared to be missing none of the form that saw him capture his first major championship and second PGA Tour title.

Koepka shot rounds of 67-70-68-67 at the U.S. Open and pulled away over the closing holes to win by four strokes over Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman. While Koepka overpowered Erin Hills, he simply managed his way around Royal Birkdale, hitting just nine greens. The big key was needing only 21 putts.

He was aided by a holed bunker shot for an eagle at the par-5 17th that jumped him into a tie with Jordan Spieth, who finished two groups later. The pair share the 18-hole lead with Matt Kuchar at 5 under.

"If I start playing four or five weeks in a row, everything just seems to get nonchalant,'' Koepka, 27, said. "You get to be in the routine and get used to it. And it just doesn't seem like I'm fully ready to play. If you take some time off and kind of recharge mentally, physically, I feel like I'm in really good shape right now, even with that time off.

"It's nice to come back. You get excited to play golf. And anytime you're excited, you're extremely focused when you're out here. And it's a major championship, and if you can't get up for that, you might as well go home.''

Koepka certainly doesn't want that. He's spent enough time away from the game of late -- not that it has hurt him in any way.