Koepka off to record-setting start at PGA Championship

Tanya Simon
May 20, 2019

Defending champion Brooks Koepka, who had yet to tee off, still topped the leaderboard on seven under. Sixteen players broke par, the fewest after the opening round of the PGA Championship since 2008 at Oakland Hills. Even more unacceptable was his three-putt at the eighth to fall two-over, the par putt sliding by from no more than three feet to add to the frustrations. But he lipped the right edge on his bogey putt to make double bogey.

The 28-year-old South Korean-born Kiwi, who fired a six-under par 64 on Thursday, was in the opening group off the 10th tee in cool conditions as the second round began to unfold at Bethpage Black.

Ben Cook Jr. got off to a good start but struggled on the closing holes Thursday to shoot a 74 in the first round of the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York.

"I'm definitely hitting it further", he said.

"I played most of 2017 with just one swing thought. and it's working back in that direction but it was far enough off to make it pretty hard".

Spieth was second in the world after winning the third leg of the grand slam in the 2017 Open Championship but has not tasted victory since and is now ranked 39th after failing to register a single top-20 finish this season.

Woods missed one cut at a major - the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills (also on Long Island) - during his comeback campaign a year ago.

"It wasn't as clean as I'd like to have it for sure, " said Woods, 43, who finished second to Koepka at last year's PGA Championship at Bellerive in St. Louis.

Bethpage's fairways are lined with lush, rain-fuelled rough, and Koepka said keeping his ball in the short grass had been key to his score.

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"Don't get me wrong, I'll take it every day but just need to clean a few things up".

"I felt like I won this previous year". But at the same time, that's what our sport needed. He noticed when, after winning two majors past year, he wasn't among the eight Tour Championship players invited to conduct a pre-tournament news conference. While his 72 is considered slightly better than field average on a notoriously hard Bethpage Black course.

With eight top-10 finishes in 10 starts coming in, McIlroy was among the pre-tournament picks to win this week.

He skipped a planned nine-hole practice round Wednesday for rest, having done a five-hour in-depth tour of the course last week and played nine holes early Monday.

"No, not at all, " Woods said. "Four days over a tough championship that is mentally and physically taxing takes its toll".

Dustin Johnson is ranked the No. 1 golfer in the world.

McIlroy, 30, is third in the FedExCup and fourth in the world.

Now the swaggering Koepka has three major victories to his name, including back-to-back U.S. Opens (the first man to do that since Curtis Strange in 1989), he feels free to declare his intent to win at least seven more.

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