PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka leads after bogey-free 63

Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka

The closer any sportsperson gets to perfection, the less compelling the spectacle tends to be. It takes two to tango, and in moving into a solo lead Brooks Koepka threatened to take the fizz out of a major championship before the weekend begins.

Rarely is it that simple, but simple is what Koepka made it look like at Bethpage Black on Thursday. Seven birdies, including one at his first, one at his last, 11 pars, and the only bogey-free round in a field of 156 which became 155 when Brian Gay, a man half Koepka's size, decided enough was enough.

When the driver misbehaved, such as at the 13th and then shockingly so at the first, fortune or his own brute force came to the rescue. When chances went begging, half-chances were gobbled up soon after, never more significantly than when he curled home a monster putt at the ninth, his final hole.

It was exactly what we've come to expect from a player who, at 29, has cracked it. Before the 101st PGA Championship, Koepka explained that he considers majors the easiest tournaments to win, and he appears to enjoy proving himself right as much as he enjoys proving others wrong. Lord help them all.


Leaderboard

-7 Koepka

-6 Lee

-3 Fleetwood

Selected others: -1 D Johnson, Spieth, Fowler, +2 Woods, McIlroy


Tiger Woods was impressed. He felt - though the statistics tell a different story - that Koepka could've gone lower still than 63. Woods himself was half a stroke worse than his playing partner per hole, carding a two-over-par 72 which looks ordinary on the leaderboard and looked downright amateurish alongside Koepka's ball.

Yet the finest player of his generation knows that there is a long way to go. If double-bogeys at the 10th and 17th holes threatened to play Woods out of it, then a lengthy eagle putt at the fourth kept him in it. Reeling in the leader from here, even over three days, will require something much closer to flawless than we saw, but it's nevertheless too early to rule it out altogether.

Koepka has closer challengers, of course, and Danny Lee's afternoon 64 was pound-for-pound as impressive. A teen prodigy who hasn't quite trained on, Lee is hamstrung by a comparative lack of big-game experience but when he's good, he's very good; 21 putts and a host of solid iron shots showed as much.

Lee's round ensures that Koepka's lead is slim on paper, but the gap back to third is significant. Tommy Fleetwood already finds himself four strokes behind his Shinnecock nemesis after yet another solid day's work, a 67 which in a fairer world ought to have at least earned him an hour or two in the lead.

Those on 68 - Chez Reavie, Luke List, Sung Kang, Pat Perez and Mike Lorenzo Vera - played superbly, yet it's the names lurking a shot further back which raise hopes that we may yet get a spectacle. Jordan Spieth closed with a birdie for a welcome round of 69 in his grand slam bid; Rickie Fowler saved par for the same number; Dustin Johnson tromped around and broke par without breaking sweat.

On any other day these scores would have threatened the lead, but Rory McIlroy may need something lower than all of them on Friday if he's to do so at any stage. Winner of this title twice before, a hat-trick will need birdies at some point and none were forthcoming over 17 holes of sheer frustration, until some solace arrived at the last. Like Woods, he shot 72; like Woods, it had better be his worst round of the week.

"What Brooks and Danny did is out of this world," said Spieth. He should know: already this has echoes of his Masters romp in 2015, which began with sorcery but ended with absolutely nobody on earth surprised by what they had witnessed.

Koepka has started to make the impossible appear not possible, but probable. Probable, though, is not certain.

Like what you've read?
Help your friends Know It All by sharing this article to your social media.

Most Read

Check out the latest racing tips1

Wednesday's racing preview

Roger Fell is clearly keen to win the AGMA Stablemate Carlisle Bell, and Anita Chambers fancies Tadaawol to score.

King's Advice winning at Goodwood2

Northumberland Plate: Five to watch

The Betfair Exchange Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle is the big betting heat this weekend and Matt Brocklebank flag up a handful of interesting potential candidates.

Jason Behrendorff took five wickets against England3

Australia book semi-final spot

Australia have booked their spot in the semi-final of the Cricket World Cup with victory over England at Lord's.

A complete list of every completed summer 2019 transfer window deal4

Transfer Window: Done Deals

Get all the complete signings in the summer 2019 football transfer window from the Premier League, Sky Bet EFL and Europe.

We have five selections for the Rocket Mortgage Classic5

Rocket Mortgage Classic preview

Golf expert Ben Coley has five selections at massive prices for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, as the PGA Tour makes its return to Michigan.

Most Read

Check out the latest racing tips1

Wednesday's racing preview

Roger Fell is clearly keen to win the AGMA Stablemate Carlisle Bell, and Anita Chambers fancies Tadaawol to score.

King's Advice winning at Goodwood2

Northumberland Plate: Five to watch

The Betfair Exchange Northumberland Plate Handicap at Newcastle is the big betting heat this weekend and Matt Brocklebank flag up a handful of interesting potential candidates.

Jason Behrendorff took five wickets against England3

Australia book semi-final spot

Australia have booked their spot in the semi-final of the Cricket World Cup with victory over England at Lord's.

A complete list of every completed summer 2019 transfer window deal4

Transfer Window: Done Deals

Get all the complete signings in the summer 2019 football transfer window from the Premier League, Sky Bet EFL and Europe.

We have five selections for the Rocket Mortgage Classic5

Rocket Mortgage Classic preview

Golf expert Ben Coley has five selections at massive prices for the Rocket Mortgage Classic, as the PGA Tour makes its return to Michigan.

Racing Tips

Check out the latest racing tips

Wednesday's racing preview

Roger Fell is clearly keen to win the AGMA Stablemate Carlisle Bell, and Anita Chambers fancies Tadaawol to score.

Action from Beverley

Tuesday's racing preview

Archie Perkins can claim his third win of the year, according to Anita Chambers - she has a tip for every race on Tuesday.

Action from Salisbury

Daily Nap: Time to back Nick

Ryan Moore is fancied to be among the winner aboard Nicklaus at Salisbury on Wednesday.

Next Race Off

23:42 Fort Erie
6
(6)
Arnie The King
J: David Moran
4
(4)
Zephan
J: Justin Stein

Football Tips

A view of Uttoxeter racecourse

Our best bets

Check out Sporting Life's best bets across racing, football and more.

Saturday's best bets

Saturday's Bets of the Day

We have selections from our racing team to help boost those Royal Ascot coffers, plus Richard Mann's cricket advice.

Our guide to the 2019 Copa America

Copa America: Venezuela can shine

The Copa America gets under way on Saturday with 12 teams going for glory. We have all you need to know, including two 40/1 best bets.