Bethpage – Defending champion Brooks Koepka couldn’t care less if he intimidates golf rivals. He’s not too concerned about Tiger Woods challenging him. And he has never been so confident.
The three-time major winner fired a bogey-free seven-under par 63 to grab the lead in Thursday’s opening round of the PGA Championship, humbling golf’s finest field and a Bethpage Black course that played havoc with other stars.
“I felt like I won this last year, I’m playing good, I’ve just got to go out there and focus on me,” Koepka said.
“I’m there to do one job and that’s play a good round of golf. It doesn’t bother me too much what anybody else thinks.”
He’s not concerned if he has developed an intimidation factor such as that enjoyed in his heyday by Tiger Woods, who edged Koepka by a stroke to win last month’s Masters and end an 11-year major win drought.
“It was great that Tiger won Augusta, but I mean we’re at a new week now,” Koepka said of his playing partner for the first two rounds.
“You know what you’re going to get when you play with him. Everybody in New York is going to be cheering for him and it’s going to be loud, especially if he makes a putt.
“You’ve just got to keep battling and find a way through it.”
Koepka’s 63 set a course record, matched the tournament record and made him only the third player to shoot 63 twice in a major after Greg Norman and Vijay Singh.
“Didn’t birdie either of the par-5s. That was disappointing because those are holes you should be able to birdie,” Koepka said. “Would have been nice to shoot 60. I guess that would have been pretty good.”
It would have been the best in any major ever by two strokes. But it’s just another accolade for a player who can win a third consecutive US Open title next month at Pebble Beach.
“I’ve never been this confident,” Koepka said. “I think I’m still learning, understanding my game. I’ve figured it out and over the next few years I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Koepka credited a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-4 10th hole, his first hole of the day, with setting the tone for his impressive round.
“When that putt went in, that was the momentum that kind of set me,” he said. “I never once thought about the course record or anything. I was just trying to shoot the best I could.
“When I’m out there it just like anybody else. I’m at work and just trying to grind.”
Koepka likes the supreme test offered by a course like Bethpage, which had only six sub-par finishers in two prior majors combined.
“It tests every asset of your game,” he said. “You can’t miss. You can’t take a shot off. And that’s what I love. There’s a fine line between 5-6-over and a couple under.
“You take a hole off, it could change very quickly out here. You’ve just got to keep the pedal down.”
Scores after Thursday’s opening round of the 101st PGA Championship at par-70 Bethpage Black:
63 – Brooks Koepka (USA)
64 – Danny Lee (NZL)
67 – Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)
68 – Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA), Chez Reavie (USA), Luke List (USA), Kang Sung (KOR), Pat Perez (USA)
– Rickie Fowler (USA), Matt Wallace (ENG), Dustin Johnson (USA), Jordan
Spieth (USA), Patrick Cantlay (USA), Phil Mickelson (USA), Jason Day
(AUS), Kim Si-woo (KOR)
70 – Sam Burns (USA), Jason Caron (USA), Patton Kizzire (USA), Max Homa (USA), David Lipsky (USA), Jimmy Walker (USA), Erik Van Rooyen (RSA), Graeme McDowell (NIR), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA),
Justin Rose (ENG), Xander Schauffele (USA), Hideki Matsuyama (JPN),
Aaron Wise (USA), Ryan Vermeer (USA), Joel Dahmen (USA), Daniel Berger
(USA), Paul Casey (ENG), Tony Finau (USA), Billy Horschel (USA), Gary
Woodland (USA), Keegan Bradley (USA), Jon Rahm (ESP), Matt Kuchar (USA),
Jazz Janewattananond (THA)
71 – Harold Varner (USA), Kyle Stanley
(USA), Kelly Kraft (USA), Adam Scott (AUS), Tyrrell Hatton (ENG), Im
Sung-jai (KOR), J.B. Holmes (USA), Lucas Bjerregaard (DEN), Danny
Willett (ENG), Zach Johnson (USA)
72 – Beau Hossler (USA), J.J.
Spaun (USA), Scott Piercy (USA), Richy Werenski (USA), Adam Hadwin
(CAN), Russell Knox (SCO), Charles Howell (USA), Francesco Molinari
(ITA), Tiger Woods (USA), Julian Suri (USA), Marty Jertson (USA), Troy
Merritt (USA), Joost Luiten (NED), Cameron Champ (USA), Lucas Glover
(USA), Ian Poulter (ENG), Kevin Na (USA), Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Webb
Simpson (USA), Rory McIlroy (NIR), Corey Conners (CAN), Chesson Hadley
(USA), Tyler Hall (USA)
73 – Li Haotong (CHN), Charley Hoffman (USA), Shaun Norris (RSA), Alex Noren (SWE), Abraham Ancer (MEX), Adam Long (USA), Adrian Otaegui (ESP), Jason Kokrak (USA), Branden Grace (RSA),
Ryan Moore (USA), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Steve Stricker (USA), Satoshi
Kodaira (JPN), Kevin Tway (USA), Bronson Burgoon (USA), Cameron Smith
(AUS), Jim Furyk (USA)
74 – Keith Mitchell (USA), Ben Cook (USA), An Byeong-hun (KOR), Andrew Putnam (USA), Justin Harding (RSA),
Thomas Pieters (BEL), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Henrik Stenson (SWE),
Sergio Garcia (ESP), Patrick Reed (USA), Shugo Imahira (JPN), Lucas
Herbert (AUS), Cory Schneider (USA), Brian Mackey (USA), Ross Fisher
(ENG), Martin Kaymer (GER), Ryan Armour (USA), Marc Leishman (AUS),
Michael Kim (USA), Kurt Kitayama (USA), Mikko Korhonen (FIN)
75 – Rob Labritz (USA), Richard Sterne (RSA),
Shane Lowry (IRL), Lee Westwood (ENG), Martin Trainer (USA), Joaquin
Niemann (CHI), Rich Beem (USA), John Daly (USA), Matt Fitzpatrick (ENG),
Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP), Padraig Harrington (IRL)
76 – Kiradech
Aphibarnrat (THA), Jason Dufner (USA), Bubba Watson (USA), Eddie
Pepperell (ENG), Yang Yong-eun (KOR), Rich Berberian (USA), Emiliano
Grillo (ARG), Tom Lewis (ENG), Jhonattan Vegas (VEN)
77 – J.T.
Poston (USA), Casey Russell (USA), Michael Thompson (USA), Rod Perry
(USA), Ryan Palmer (USA), Justin Bertsch (USA), Brian Harman (USA),
Shaun Micheel (USA), Alex Beach (USA), Kevin Kisner (USA), Jorge
Campillo (ESP), Dylan Frittelli (RSA)
78 – Brendan Jones (AUS), Ryan Fox (NZL), Craig Bowden (USA) 78, Pan C.T. (TPE), Danny Balin (USA)
79 – John O’Leary (USA), Brandon Stone (RSA)
80 Alex Bjork (SWE)
81 – Jeffrey Schmid (USA)
82 – Stuart Deane (AUS), Craig Hocknull (AUS)
84 – Andrew Filbert (USA)
WD – Brian Gay (USA) 81