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Sunday June 4th, 2023 4:11AM

Varner leads LIV event as Koepka struggles in return from 5th major victory

By The Associated Press

STERLING, Va. (AP) — Brooks Koepka returned from the high of winning his fifth major championship with a flat round of even-par 72 that left him eight shots behind Harold Varner III on Friday after the opening round of LIV Golf DC at Trump National.

Koepka still had reason to be thankful. On the first hole that he used driver, the face cracked.

“Thank God it cracked now instead of coming down the stretch last week,” Koepka said.

The drive came in handy when he hit one of his best tee shots on the reachable par-4 14th onto the fringe at Oak Hill, carried the bunkers on the 15th that set up a wedge out of the rough to 4 feet and another PGA Championship title.

It was back to LIV Golf just five days after his major victory.

Varner started his round with a bogey on the par-3 fourth hole, and that was his only mistake. He had a pair of eagles and five birdies for a 64, giving him a two-shot lead over former U.S. Amateur champion James Piot.

Andy Ogletree, getting another start as an alternate for Paul Casey and his wounded foot, was in the group at 68 that included British Open champion Cameron Smith.

Phil Mickelson had six bogeys in his round of 74.

___

AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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