18 May 2019: Brooks Koepka is flying solo and doing it in style. The three-time major champion cushioned himself with a massive seven-stroke advantage at the halfway stage of the 101st PGA Championship at the demanding Bethpage Black. Koepka followed through with a brilliant 65 on Saturday for a record-breaking 12-under 128 through 36 holes. Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott are tied in second after shooting 66 and 64 respectively. The two men are at 5-under 135.
After a bogey-free effort to open the Championship, Koepka conceded two of them in the second round. But despite bogeys at 10 & 17 and some missed putts from makeable distances, he was still good enough for a five-under card.
There have been three instances of men holding six-stroke leads after 36 holes in the PGA Championship. Martin Kaymer at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2, Rory McIlroy at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional, and Woods at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach held centre stage. At the Masters in 1996, Greg Norman was in front by six, only to lose on Sunday.
“I’d like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can,” Koepka said. “I still have to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do, 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.”
Luke List, Matt Wallace, Kelly Kraft, Justin Rose and Dustin Johnson are bunched at T5, eight shots off Koepka’s scorching pace.
Adam Scott was seven under through 14 holes, before eventually making 64, after suffering a bogey at the 17th. Rory McIlroy rescued himself from a looming cut with four birdies in his last six holes. At 3-over McIlroy left himself inside the cut line and a chance to make amends over the weekend.
Also in on a late charge was Rich Beem. The 2002 PGA Championship winner scored four birdies in his last five holes to get in on the number at 4-over 144.
Tiger Woods will be missing the weekend for just the ninth time in 76 major starts. Scores of 72 and 73 left him just outside the cut line. Steve Stricker will miss out on a major weekend for the first time since the 2009 PGA Championship, bringing to an end an incredibly consistent streak.
PGA TOUR Notes
Fairways hit: 19 of 28 (T24)
Driving distance: 302.1 (T30)
Greens hit: 29 of 36 (4th)
Proximity to the hole: 25’, 8” (2nd)
Strokes Gained statistics:
Tee-to-Green: +12.86 (1st)
Off-the-Tee: +3.35 (4th)
Approach: +8.69 (1st)
Around-the-Green: +0.81 (50th)
Putting: +3.85 (12th)
Total: +16.71 (1st)
These notes should help put Koepka’s performance in perspective:
- His 36-hole score of 128 is the lowest 36-hole score ever shot in a major championship. The previous record was 130.
- He now holds the PGA Championship’s 18-, 36- and 72-hole scoring records. He needs a 67 on Saturday to set the tournament’s 54-hole mark. Koepka set the 18- and 36-hole records this week. He established the 72-hole mark in last year’s victory at Bellerive. David Toms set the tournament’s 54-hole mark (196) in 2001.
- Koepka’s seven-shot lead is the largest in a major since World War II. The largest 36-hole lead in PGA Championship history was five strokes by Nick Price in 1994.
- His 65 on Friday was the lowest second-round score from a player who opened a major with 63. The previous record was 69.
This continues his incredible recent play in majors, as well:
- The PGA Championship would be Koepka’s fourth victory in his last eight majors.
- He has held at least a share of the lead after eight of the past 18 rounds in the U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
- He’s held at least a share of the lead after 11 of his last 33 rounds in majors.
- He didn’t record his first bogey until his 28th hole this week. That ended a streak of 41 bogey-free holes in the PGA Championship and 51 holes without a bogey on the PGA TOUR.
- This is his 11th consecutive under-par round in a major and seventh consecutive round in the 60s at the PGA Championship.