Brooks Koepka keeps the pedal down to open up seven-shot lead

Defending champion cards 65 to record lowest 36-hole score in Major history

 Brooks Koepka  chips on the fifth hole during the second round of the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York. Photograph:  Tannen Maury/EPA

Brooks Koepka chips on the fifth hole during the second round of the US PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York. Photograph: Tannen Maury/EPA

 

Tiger Woods left the premises, Brooks Koepka hung around.

Koepka, the defending champion, hit fewer shots than anyone has ever required to hold the lead in any of the four Majors when he added a second round 65 to his opening 63 for a record 36-holes total of 128, 12 under par, in this 101st edition of the US PGA Championship.

If there was a sense that Koepka – all on his own – had managed to tame the fearsome reputation of Bethpage’s Black Course, there was also a hint of, not quite awe, but admiration from Woods, who missed the cut, of the player currently dominating the game.

Koepka, who has won back-to-back US Opens and is now seeking to do the same in the PGA, reached the midpoint with a seven strokes cushion over his closest pursuers, Australian Adam Scott and Grand Slam-chasing Jordan Spieth. In sport, pursuit is never futile; and, at least, those chasing can hold onto that hope. Maybe.

Although Woods famously held off Koepka a month ago to claim the green jacket as Masters champion at Augusta, the 15-times Major champion recognised the difference in the power game demonstrated by the leader.

“What Brooksy did, he’s driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway. He’s got 9-irons when most of us are hitting 5-irons, 4-irons, and he’s putting well. That adds up to a pretty substantial lead, and if he keeps doing what he’s doing, there’s no reason why he can’t build on this lead.”

Koepka went 28 holes before succumbing to a bogey, but that error was a rarity as the 29-year-old American – who first cut his teeth as a professional on the Challenge Tour before progressing to the European Tour and ultimately the PGA Tour – robotically moved from tee to fairway to green with an assurance and display of shot-making that moved him farther ahead of the field.

Yet, an hour after play had finished, who was the man on the range? Koepka – with caddie Ricky Elliott – fine-tuning whatever perceived imperfections he felt.

When the cut came at 144, four over par, three of the four Irish players had survived: Graeme McDowell (72 for 142), Rory McIlroy (71 for 143) and Shane Lowry (69 for 144). Pádraig Harrington was the only one of the quartet to miss out. Aside from Woods, other notables to miss the cut were Bubba Watson, Bryson DeChambeau, Ian Poulter and the Spanish duo of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm.

Koepka, winner of the Wanamaker Trophy at Bellerive last August, made no bones of how confident he felt ahead of this championship and has backed it up with scintillating play over the opening two rounds. He looks unbeatable, just as Woods once appeared.

Yet, it was Koepka who found kinks in his own armour. “This probably sounds bad,” he told us, “but today was a battle. I didn’t strike it that good. I was leaking a few to the right. But the way I hung in there today and battled it, I think that was probably more impressive than yesterday, not having your A game but still being able to shoot a great score. I was very, very pleased with the way I played today.”

With the foot on the pedal, the plan for Koepka is to keep it there: “I’d like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can. I still have to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do [over the weekend], 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.”

SCOREBOARD
(USA unless stated, par 70):

128 Brooks Koepka 63 65

135 Adam Scott (Aus) 71 64, Jordan Spieth 69 66

136 Luke List 68 68, Dustin Johnson 69 67, Daniel Berger 70 66, Matt Wallace (Eng) 69 67, Kelly Kraft 71 65

137 Justin Rose (Eng) 70 67

138 Danny Lee (Nzl) 64 74, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 70 68, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 70 68, Harold Varner III 71 67, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 67 71, Sung Kang (Kor) 68 70, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 70 68, Rickie Fowler 69 69, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 70 68

139 Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 68 71, Xander Schauffele 70 69, Scott Piercy 72 67, Patrick Cantlay 69 70, Charles Howell III 72 67, Chez Reavie 68 71, Bronson Burgoon 73 66

140 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 71 69, Francesco Molinari (Ita) 72 68, Zach Johnson 71 69, Gary Woodland 70 70, Matt Kuchar 70 70, Keegan Bradley 70 70, Phil Mickelson 69 71, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 71 69, Jimmy Walker 70 70, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 75 65

141 Marty Jertson 72 69, Pat Perez 68 73, Ross Fisher (Eng) 74 67, Beau Hossler 72 69, Aaron Wise 70 71, Lucas Glover 72 69, Danny Willett (Eng) 71 70, Webb Simpson 72 69, Max Homa 70 71, Paul Casey (Eng) 70 71, Brandt Snedeker 74 67

142 Kurt Kitayama 74 68, Charley Hoffman 73 69, Graeme McDowell (N Irl) 70 72, Alex Noren (Swe) 73 69, Adam Hadwin (Can) 72 70, Haotong Li (Chn) 73 69, Joel Dahmen 70 72, Sam Burns 70 72, Billy Horschel 70 72, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 74 68

143 Jason Day (Aus) 69 74, Jason Kokrak 73 70, Cameron Champ 72 71, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 76 67, Tony Finau 70 73, Abraham Ancer (Mex) 73 70, Cameron Smith (Aus) 73 70, Rory McIlroy (N Irl) 72 71, Adam Long 73 70, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 73 70, Kevin Tway 73 70

144 JT Poston 77 67, Rob Labritz 75 69, Justin Harding (Rsa) 74 70, Andrew Putnam 74 70, Ryan Vermeer 70 74, Joost Luiten (Ned) 72 72, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 76 68, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 74 70, Shane Lowry (Irl) 75 69, Rich Beem 75 69, David Lipsky 70 74, JJ Spaun 72 72, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 75 69, Corey Conners (Can) 72 72, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 74 70

MISSED CUT

145 Tiger Woods 72 73, Martin Kaymer (Ger) 74 71, Julian Suri 72 73, Jon Rahm (Esp) 70 75, Martin Trainer 75 70, Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 73 72, Steve Stricker 73 72, Kyle Stanley 71 74, Bubba Watson 76 69, Kevin Na 72 73, Jim Furyk 73 72, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 74 71, Ryan Armour 74 71, Patton Kizzire 70 75, Keith Mitchell 74 71, Michael Kim 74 71, Russell Knox (Sco) 72 73, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 77 68, Sungjae Im (Kor) 71 74, Tyler Hall 72 73

146 Richy Werenski 72 74, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 75 71, Bryson DeChambeau 72 74, Ian Poulter (Eng) 72 74, Branden Grace (Rsa) 73 73, Patrick Reed 74 72, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 69 77

147 Tom Lewis (Eng) 76 71, Shugo Imahira (Jpn) 74 73, Shaun Norris (Rsa) 73 74, Brian Mackey 74 73, Ben Cook 74 73, Troy Merritt 72 75, Lee Westwood (Eng) 75 72

148 JB Holmes 71 77, Jason Dufner 76 72, Byeong-Hun An (Kor) 74 74, Marc Leishman (Aus) 74 74, Ryan Fox (Nzl) 78 70, Mikko Korhonen (Fin) 74 74, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 75 73

149 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 73 76, Jason Caron 70 79, Michael Thompson 77 72, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai) 78 71, Chesson Hadley 72 77

150 Justin Bertsch 77 73, Jorge Campillo (Esp) 77 73, Casey Russell 77 73, Ryan Moore 73 77

151 John Daly 75 76, Rich Berberian Jr 76 75, Eddie Pepperell (Eng) 76 75, YE Yang (Kor) 76 75

152 Alex Beach 77 75, Ryan Palmer 77 75, Brandon Stone (Rsa) 79 73, Pádraig Harrington (Irl) 75 77

153 Craig Bowden 78 75, Kevin Kisner 77 76, Jhonattan Vegas (Ven) 76 77

154 Rod Perry 77 77, Shaun Micheel 77 77, Brian Harman 77 77

155 Alexander Bjork (Swe) 80 75, Brendan Jones (Aus) 78 77, Daniel Balin 78 77

157 John O’Leary 79 78

158 Stuart Deane 82 76

159 Cory Schneider 74 85, Jeffrey Schmid 81 78, Craig Hocknull (Aus) 82 77

166 Andrew Filbert 84 82

THIRD ROUND TEE-TIMES (US unless stated, Irish times)
12.50pm:
Joost Luiten (Ned), Lucas Herbert (Aus)
1.0pm: Justin Harding (Rsa), JT Poston
1.10pm: David Lipsky, Shane Lowry (Irl)
1.20pm: Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Andrew Putnam
1.30pm: JJ Spaun, Thomas Pieters (Bel)
1.40pm: Corey Conners (Can), Rob Labritz
1.50pm: Rich Beem, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp)
2.0pm: Adam Long, Ryan Vermeer
2.10pm: Cameron Smith (Aus), Abraham Ancer (Mex)
2.20pm: Jason Day (Aus), Kevin Tway
2.30pm: Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Rory McIlroy (N Irl)
2.40pm: Emiliano Grillo (Arg), Tony Finau
2.50pm: Jason Kokrak, Cameron Champ
3.0pm: Haotong Li (Chn), Alex Noren (Swe)
3.10pm: Charley Hoffman, Graeme McDowell (N Irl)
3.20pm: Adam Hadwin (Can), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
3.30pm: Kurt Kitayama, Sam Burns
3.50pm: Joel Dahmen, Billy Horschel
4.0pm: Aaron Wise, Marty Jertson
4.10pm: Brandt Snedeker, Max Homa
4.20pm: Webb Simpson, Beau Hossler
4.30pm: Pat Perez, Danny Willett (Eng)
4.40pm: Lucas Glover, Paul Casey (Eng)
4.50pm: Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Ross Fisher (Eng)
5.0pm: Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Francesco Molinari (Ita)
5.10pm: Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker
5.20pm: Zach Johnson, Phil Mickelson
5.30pm: Gary Woodland, Keegan Bradley
5.40pm: Charles Howell III, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng)
5.50pm: Chez Reavie, Xander Schauffele
6.0pm: Scott Piercy, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra)
6.10pm: Patrick Cantlay, Bronson Burgoon
6.20pm: Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn)
6.40pm: Tommy Fleetwood (Eng), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa)
6.50: Harold Varner III, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa)
7.0pm: Sung Kang (Kor), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha)
7.10pm: Justin Rose (Eng), Danny Lee (Nzl)
7.20pm: Matt Wallace (Eng), Luke List
7.30pm: Dustin Johnson, Kelly Kraft
7.40pm: Adam Scott (Aus), Daniel Berger
7.50pm: Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth

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