Koepka builds seven-shot lead at PGA Championship
Second-round 65 begs question of how long he can keep this up
May 17, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Brooks Koepka leads by seven shots at PGA Championship
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – A long row of open palms awaits players as they make the long walk from the 14th green, down the grassy hill, across Round Swamp Road, and onto the 15th tee. Fans reach over the rope and hope for the best, and many players steer clear.
Brooks Koepka touched seemingly every one as he cut through Bethpage Black in round two of the 101st PGA Championship. The defending champ, who shot a 5-under 65 to build a seven-shot lead over Adam Scott (64) and Jordan Spieth (66), is not one to worry about hand sanitizer or anything else. He is bidding to win his fourth major in his last eight starts, which is Tiger stuff, and he’s off to a dominating start while enjoying himself every step of the way.
“The thing about Brooks is you know he cares,” said Paul Casey (71, 1 over), “but he plays like he just doesn’t give a damn, which is a brilliant place to be. And he’s very, very talented.”
Koepka is turning this PGA into a walk in the (Bethpage State) park, and he didn’t even flinch at the guy who yelled “Shank it!” all the way up the 18th hole. Not even close.
“I felt pretty confident I wasn't going to shank the driver (laughter),” he said. “I mean, that happens every time you play with Tiger; New York. It's fun. It's just something to laugh at.”
Ah, yes. Tiger. He shot 73 to miss the cut at 5 over, which means Koepka beat him by, ahem, 17 shots. One journalist even wondered aloud if it wasn’t a “passing of the torch.” Koepka didn’t go there. Like vintage Woods, though, he stomped on the accelerator and kept it down all the way. And like vintage Woods, he still wasn’t totally satisfied, heading to the range after the round.
“This probably sounds bad, but today was a battle,” he said with a straight face before going out to work on his swing. “I didn’t strike it that good. I was leakin’ a few to the right.”
Although he made his first two bogeys of the tournament at the 10th and 17th holes, Koepka hit 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. He’s 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting, first in Scrambling, and now has the 18-, 36- and 72-hole scoring records at the PGA. Oh, and by the way, he also broke the old record for low 36-hole score (130) in a major, by two.
Which begs the question: What about everyone else?
“I know he's won three majors,” said Scott, who finished third behind Koepka and Woods at last year’s PGA in St. Louis. “I know he seems impenetrable at the moment in this position, but at some point, he's got to think about it. It has to come to an end eventually, that good front-running (laughing). Let's hope it's not 12 years, like Tiger's front-running lasted.”
This marks the largest 36-hole lead in PGA Championship history. Martin Kaymer at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, and Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach all had six-shot leads through 36 holes.
Greg Norman was ahead by six going into the last round at the 1996 Masters, but lost.
With three wins and a runner-up in his last seven major starts, Koepka is plenty confident.
“I'd like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can,” he said. “I still have to go out there and do what I'm supposed to do, keep putting the ball in the right spot and make sure that you don't make any double-bogeys, and I should have a good chance of winning the championship.”
Five players are at 4 under, eight back, including Dustin Johnson (67), while Justin Rose (67) is nine back. But unless Koepka comes back to the field, they would seem to be too far back.
Even Koepka’s closest pursuers may be doomed. Scott is a tee-to-green specialist whose putting can turn against him (he’s a tidy 11th in SG: Putting here). Spieth leads the field in SG: Putting, but was T88 (15 of 28 fairways) of 156 players in Driving Accuracy in rounds one and two.
“You don't expect Brooks to fall at all,” said Spieth, chasing his first win in nearly two years, “so I thought I needed to be within five or six or seven to feel like I had a chance on the weekend.”
Rickie Fowler (69, 1 under) said earlier this week that Bethpage is so dangerous, no lead is safe. Scott seconded that Friday.
“I think there's doubles left and right out there once you get out of position,” he said. “Hey, if the guy can just keep doing that for another two days, then there's not much you can do. But I think someone, hopefully me, will chip away tomorrow and sneak up in the right direction.”
The only position Koepka has been in so far is the driver’s seat.