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Blistering Brooks is back in a big way

Mark Brooks, winless since 1996, has 6-under 64 to share the lead.

By BOB HARIG

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 16, 2001


TULSA, Okla. -- Mark Brooks has a major championship on his resume, but little else to suggest he'd tie a U.S. Open scoring record and vault to the top of the leaderboard.

Brooks has disappeared faster from golf's radar than Tiger Woods took it over. Since his 1996 PGA Championship victory -- just a few weeks before Woods turned pro -- Brooks has failed to win again.

But on a Southern Hills Country Club course that gave Woods fits through the first two rounds of the U.S. Open, Brooks played it in a cool 6 under par, shooting 64 that tied a U.S. Open second-round record held by Tommy Jacobs (1964), Rives McBee (1966) and Curtis Strange (1989).

"Well, I got off to a good start," he said. "That was kind of the key."

Was it ever. Brooks, 40, a seven-time PGA Tour winner, birdied five of the first six holes after completing his first round Friday morning with double bogey at the 18th hole. He switched drivers for the second round and found success.

Brooks played the front nine in 30, 5 under par, and the U.S. Open and major-championship scoring record of 62 was within reach.

"I kind of set a goal of 62 when I got it up and down (for par) at nine," Brooks said. "But I really didn't hit it close enough. And with those last five holes the way they are, I would have certainly taken five pars and gone to the house."

His only birdie on the back nine came at the 11th hole. From there he parred in for the 64, by two strokes the best of the day.

And there was no indication he had such a round in him. Brooks' best finish this year is a tie for seventh two months ago at the WorldCom Classic. In his past four events, he's not cracked the top 20. And since his PGA Championship title, he's barely contended.

"I started playing poorly at the end of '96. And basically, it was an equipment change that caused all of it," he said. "It just took a while to figure out that I needed to play something a little different. And I made the change and started playing better pretty quickly.

"I got tired and got into some swing habits, bad things, and they got pretty ingrained. I haven't played a lot of great golf in the last couple of years."

That changed, at least for a day.

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