The 32-year-old carded a three-under-par 67, equalling the best score of the morning, in the second round of the season’s third major at The Country Club in Brookline.
Illuminated by an eagle-3 at the 14th, the effort catapulted Koepka, who’d opened with a sluggish 73, into contention at the halfway stage in the event’s 122nd edition.
“I don't come here hoping for second place,” said the 2017 an 2018 winner in reply to being asked about a tone of confidence as he spoke to the media afterwards about his day’s work.
“I think if you are a good player, you want to come in here and win,” he added. “That's why everybody is teeing it up. Nobody has a goal of just making the cut or anything like that.
“I mean, I'm pretty confident, but I feel like everybody should be confident in themselves, and if you're not ….people hate confidence. That's why people aren't a big fan of me.”
Koepka, who won the Scottish Challenge in Aviemore in 2013, missed the cut in this year’s Masters before finishing tied 55th in last month’s PGA Championship.
“Tulsa I was just ready to get married,” he said of the latter. “I was waiting for that party, but, after Augusta, definitely a little disappointed, pissed off, all that.
“I feel like I've been playing a lot better than maybe the results indicate. I'm happy where I'm at this week. Maybe a little bit disappointed where I'm at just because of how poorly my iron play is.
“Usually that's the best part of my game, and it's just not even close to even average. Hopefully for the weekend I'll be right there.”
Scottie Scheffler, who was playing in the same group as Koepka, also eagled the 14th. His matching 67 left the Masters champion sitting on three-under.
“I just stayed really patient,” said world No 1 Scheffler, who was two-over after six before transforming his day by covering the next 10 holes in five-under. “If a few more putts would have fallen in versus around the edge, it would have been a really special day.”
The American won four times in six starts earlier in the year, including a maiden major at Augusta National. Yet, partly due to a missed cut in the PGA Championship, he’d come into this event a bit under the radar.
“Yeah, I feel like I'm kind of an under-the-radar person,” admitted Scheffler, smiling. “I don't really feel like there's much chatter going around with me. Rory [McIlroy] won last week, Tiger [Woods] was at the PGA.
“I've been No. 1 in the world for a while now, and it doesn't really feel like it, so I kind of like just under the radar. I can show up and do my thing and then go home and rest.”
He’s sharing a house this week with Sam Burns, who is also sitting handily-placed after he signed for a 67 as well, having opened with a 71.
“I don't know. If we knew, we'd probably do it every week,” replied Scheffler to being asked what was bringing out the best in the duo. “Just dinner, hanging out. His coach is staying there and then Teddy (Scott, Scheffler’s caddie) is staying with us, as well. It's been a fun week.”
That sentiment was echoed by Nick Hardy, who only found out last Friday that he’d secured a spot in the USGA event but is grabbing the opportunity with both hands.
In the 2015 event at Chambers Bay, having got in through local and sectional qualifying, Hardy was the last player playing on the second day and his missed a putt for par on the 36th hole moved the cut line from four-over to five-over, allowing an additional 15 players to make the cut.
This time around, he’s sitting in a loftier position at the halfway stage after following a first-day 69 with a 68 to lie alongside Scheffler.
“Very pleased,” said the 26-year-old from Illinois of his work over the opening two days. “Couldn't be a better start. Really happy with how I'm driving the ball. It's key out here. If I can keep doing that, it'll be a good weekend.”
Hardy suffered a nasty wrist injury earlier this year. “I subluxated my ECU tendon in my wrist and I tore the subsheath. That's the doctor's term,” he said.
“I hit a shot on No. 4 in the final at the Zurich Classic and I felt a pop at the bottom of the swing, and I finished the round, but luckily I didn't do any extra damage. I was out for a month. No swinging for like 30 days. But yeah, that was tough.”
It proved a cloud with a silver lining, though. “I actually learned a few lessons from that injury. I really did,” he added. “I learned that I don't need to be out there six, seven, eight hours a day grinding. Sometimes taking a step back and just looking at it from a different perspective, I think it totally changed my perspective on things.”
Canadian Adam Hadwin, the overnight leader after his opening 66, had to settle for a 72 that left him on two-under, one better than South African MJ Daffue, who led by three early on in his second circuit before coming home in five-over.
“Back nine was disappointing. Did the simple things really bad,” he admitted. “But, if you'd told me before yesterday I would be one-under in the top 15 after finishing my round today, I would have said ‘yes’.”
After rounds of 78-73, Phil Mickelson missed the cut, as did Tony Jacklin’s son Sean, the sole Scot in the field, following two equally tough days that saw him shoot 78-80.