Koepka sets course record at Bethpage Black; Leads Tiger by nine strokes

Koepka also shot 63 last year at Bellerive in St. Louis on his way to a two-shot victory over Woods.

May 16, 2019 - 4:08 pm
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By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) — Brooks Koepka began his PGA Championship title defense with a record round that left Tiger Woods and everyone else in his wake.

Without making birdie on the par 5s, Koepka still broke the course record Thursday on a rain-softened Bethpage Black with a 7-under 63 that made him the first player to post a 63 in consecutive years at major championships.

Koepka also shot 63 last year at Bellerive in St. Louis on his way to a two-shot victory over Woods. It was the 17th round of 63 in the PGA Championship, and Koepka became the first player to do it twice.

It gave him a four-shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood among the morning starters. Only five others managed to break par.

"This is a crazy day," Koepka said.

It was a wild one for Woods, coming off his emotional Masters victory for his 15th major championship that raised hopes he still had time and a back strong enough to resume his chase of Jack Nicklaus and his record 18 majors. Woods had not played since the Masters. He played only nine holes of practice this week, sitting out on the eve of the PGA Championship because he says he was sick.

He opened with a double bogey when his tee shot just missed the fairway and was buried in deep, wet rough. He added another double bogey from the front bunker on the par-3 17th. He had a pair of three-putts. That erased a strong start to his front nine, which included a 30-foot eagle putt that briefly put him under par, and Woods had to settle for a 72.

He was nine shots behind.

Koepka rolled in a 40-foot birdie putt from just off the green at No. 10 to start his round, and he only twice had to scramble for par, making putts of 4 feet and 10 feet.

And he still didn't sound entirely satisfied.

"Seven under is not going to happen every day," Koepka said. "I parred the two par 5s. I missed a 5-footer on 11. It could have been a hell of a round. But it was great. I'll take it every day."

Fleetwood was runner-up the last time he played a major on Long Island, closing with a 63 at Shinnecock Hills to finish one shot behind Koepka in the U.S. Open last summer.

Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world, was among those playing in the afternoon. But on a clear day, on a tough golf course, seeing a 63 on the board was a daunting target.

Danny Lee's charge during the afternoon fell just one shot short of Koepka. The 28-year-old from New Zealand was even par after a bogey on No. 5, then he birdied four of the next five holes and the final two to finish at 6-under, 64.