Koepka fires course record as Tiger's rally stalls at PGA
Defending champion Brooks Koepka fired a course-record 7-under-par 63 on Thursday to grab the early lead in the first round of the 101st PGA Championship in Farmingdale, N.Y.
Beginning on the back nine of the Black Course at Bethpage State Park, Koepka's bogey-free round started with a birdie on No. 10. He would roll in six more birdies to serve early notice as he attempts to become the first player since World War II to win his first four majors within a two-year span.
He played Thursday's opening round with Tiger Woods, who had a far more stressful time around the 7,459-yard, Par-70 track. Woods, seeking his 16th major title, double-bogeyed the opening hole and added another double on No. 17 to go out in 3-over 38.
Woods blistered the opening portion of the front nine with a pair of birdies followed by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole - his first at a PGA Championship since 2001 - to get under par for the first time. The rally stalled when his par putt on the following hole lipped out, and Woods added two more bogeys on Nos. 7 and 8 to fall eight shots back of his playing partner.
The margin grew to nine when Koepka rolled in a lengthy birdie putt on his final hole while Woods parred from just off the back to complete his 2-over round of 72.
"I drove the ball pretty well today, and the key is you've got to put it in the fairway here if you want to put it on the green," Koepka told TNT. "If you put it in the rough all day, you're going to be laying up and really trying to scramble for pars.
"Did a good job there, and my iron play was solid, hit a lot of greens. And if I didn't, I left it in the correct place to get up and down. And then, my putter was hot today, I'm not going to lie. It hasn't felt that good in a long time."
Koepka finished the morning wave four shots clear of England's Tommy Fleetwood (3 under), with Luke List, Chez Reavie and France's Mike Lorenzo-Vera another shot off the pace.
Woods is playing for the first time since winning the Masters last month, while Koepka is coming off a fourth-place finish at last week's AT&T Byron Nelson and has now played 10 consecutive major rounds under par.
The rust showed for Woods, who missed a pair of greens from inside of 100 yards and struggled with the speed of the greens. He'll need a solid round Friday just to make the cut.
"I got off to just not the best start today," Woods told TNT. "Fought my way back in the round there, but unfortunately let a couple slip away at the end with some bad putts.
"Making two double bogeys and making two three-putts wasn't very clean today, and consequently I'm a long way back."
If Woods can take any positive away from Thursday, it may be the fact that the past four PGA champions were outside of the top 10 after the first round. On the flip side, he is chasing a man in Koepka who has posted six consecutive rounds in the 60s at the PGA Championship while shooting a combined 25-under par.
The scary part for the rest of the field is Koepka believes he still left some shots out on the course.
"This is a crazy day," he acknowledged. "Seven under isn't going to happen every day, I know that. I parred two par-5s and missed about a five-footer on No. 11, so it could have been a helluva round.
"Don't get me wrong, it was great. I'll take it every day, but just need to clean a few things up."
Other notable scores from the morning wave included Rickie Fowler (1 under), Xander Schauffele and England's Justin Rose (even), Patrick Reed and Spain's Sergio Garcia (4 over) and Bubba Watson (6 over).
NOTES: Koepka finished two shots ahead of Woods at last year's PGA Championship. ... The Black Course is playing host to the PGA Championship for the first time after serving as the venue for the 2002 and 2009 U.S. Opens. It will also be the host site for the 2024 Ryder Cup. ... The Championship was moved to May for the first time since 1949 as part of the PGA Tour's schedule overhaul this season. ... Jordan Spieth is attempting to become only the sixth player to complete the career grand slam. None of the previous five completed it at the PGA Championship. ... The 156-player field includes 20 club professionals.
--Field Level Media
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