BETHPAGE – Defending champion Brooks Koepka saw his lead stretch to four shots in Friday’s second round of the PGA Championship as Bethpage Black was brutal to early starters.
Third-ranked Koepka, a two-time US Open champion who fired a course record seven-under par 63 on Thursday, was set for a Friday afternoon start alongside Masters winner Tiger Woods and reigning British Open champion Francesco Molinari, who both opened on 72.
New Zealand’s Danny Lee, whose opening 64 made him the only rival within four strokes of Koepka, fell back on Friday with two bogeys and two double bogeys in his first seven holes.
Lee, a back-nine starter on Friday, took bogeys at 11 and 12 after missing the fairway and double bogeys at 15 and 16, after finding the rough twice on each, dropping the South Korean-born Kiwi to level par overall.
That left Tommy Fleetwood, who opened on 67 trying to become the first Englishman in 100 years to win the PGA, sharing a distant second with South Korean Kang Sung, who birdied the par-5 fourth on Friday to match him on 3-under.
Fleetwood, another Friday afternoon starter, battled Koepka at last year’s US Open in nearby Shinnecock before settling for second place.
Koepka, seeking his fourth major title in his past eight major starts, would become the only golfer to ever hold back-to-back titles at two majors simultaneously with a win at Bethpage Black.
The 7 549-yard course, where Woods won the 2002 US Open, inflicted a double bogey-bogey-double bogey start upon fourth-ranked Rory McIlroy.
The four-time major winner from Northern Ireland found deep fescue right and left of the 10th fairway, then hit into greenside rough, before blasting out to 10 feet and missing his bogey putt.
McIlroy followed with a bogey at 11 and another double bogey at 12, leaving him seven-over and looking to miss the cut.
Two-over was the early cut line, where Woods and Molinari stood ahead of their late start.
On Thursday, Koepka became only the third player to shoot 63 twice in majors after Fiji’s Vijay Singh and Australian Greg Norman.
Woods, however, struggled in his first competitive round since winning his 15th major title at last month’s Masters, where the 43-year-old US star snapped an 11-year major win drought.
Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, who has struggled all season but could complete a career Grand Slam with a victory, birdied the 11th hole – his second hole Friday – to reach 2-under overall.
That put him in a third-place pack that also included late-starting Americans Luke List and Chez Reavie and France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera, an afternoon starter trying to become only the second Frenchman to win a major after 1907 British Open winner Arnaud Massey.AFP