Stunning course record not enough for Koepka

By Sports Desk May 16, 2019

Brooks Koepka may have set a new course record at Bethpage Black but the defending champion felt he could have gone even lower in his opening round at the US PGA Championship.

Having started out on the back nine, Koepka signed for a blemish-free score of 63 as he overshadowed playing partners Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari on Thursday.

The American carded seven birdies to set the early pace in the clubhouse, though he insisted afterwards that a 60 was possible, had he taken his opportunities.

He had three missed birdie putts from 10 feet or less, as well as failing to capitalise on the two par-five holes.

"Well, I didn't take care of the par fives, didn't birdie any of the par fives," Koepka lamented to the media. "That was disappointing, because I felt like, you know, those are holes you should be able to birdie.

"Definitely can reach, what is it, four and [I] just hit a bad drive there. And then 13 I can get there too, I just hit it in the bunker.

"And then the second hole today, my 11th hole, I missed about a five-footer. That would have been nice to shoot 60. I guess that would have been pretty good."

Koepka, who turned 29 towards the start of the month, is chasing a fourth major, having defended his U.S. Open title last year following his maiden victory at Erin Hills in 2017.

"I think I'm still learning, understanding my game, and I've figured it out, and I think, over the next few years, I'm excited for what's to come," he added.

"I understand a lot more about my misses, where to hit it, and major championships I just suck it up, and you don't always have to aim at the flag like you do in regular events. Sometimes it's just about how few bogeys and doubles you make this week."

Playing alongside Woods - who finished at two over - made sure plenty of spectators followed Koepka's stunning exploits, though he welcomed the presence of a vocal following in New York.

"I think it's fun when they're getting loud, they're rowdy," he said of the fans. "I enjoy when they can really get behind you. You definitely want them on your side this week, that's for sure."

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  • I've putted the worst in the field - Koepka hopes weather can save Open dream I've putted the worst in the field - Koepka hopes weather can save Open dream

    Brooks Koepka hopes the weather can turn the tide in his favour at The Open after claiming he has "putted the worst in the entire field" at Royal Portrush.

    The four-time major winner started the day just three shots back of overnight co-leaders Shane Lowry and J.B. Holmes and there were opportunities to score low on a calm day on the Dunluce Links.

    Koepka did manage to shoot a 67, but squandered several opportunities to go even lower and will start Sunday seven shots back of Lowry after the Irishman dazzled with a 63.

    While the world number one is happy with how he has struck the ball tee-to-green, his performance on the dancefloor has left him frustrated.

    "Nobody has hit it better than me this week. I've hit it as good as I could possibly imagine. I putted the worst in the entire field," he said. "It's very frustrating, I'm disappointed.

    "I need to figure out the putter. I just need to putt good one day. So I'm about to go do a whole bunch of work on that putting green and see if I can somehow find confidence, somehow find anything."

    The forecasted adverse weather on Sunday has seen tee times brought forward and Koepka is not ready to give up his challenge just yet.

    "I need it [the bad weather]. Being seven back. Here you need some wind, you need some rain. You need anything that can kind of go your way. And that's got to be an advantage," he added.

    "Especially the way I'm striking the ball. I've struck it so good. If it's going to be windy, you need to be able to strike it good, control your flight, and figure out where you want the ball to end up."

    Justin Rose, who played alongside Koepka, is also seven shots back of Lowry.

    The 2013 U.S. Open winner is expecting the Irishman to cope well in the forecasted tough conditions, but like Koepka is hoping the weather can do him a favour.

    "It [the weather] offers you a little bit more hope than if it was a benign day. Who knows what it might take, it might take 63," he said.

    "I'm just projecting Shane is going to have a decent finish here, he's got a great short game, that will stand him in good stead on a tough weather day, he's Irish. If there is a tough-weather-day player, it probably is him. 

    "It doesn't make it easy trying to win a major in conditions like that."

  • Fleetwood not expecting storms to knock Open rival Lowry off course Fleetwood not expecting storms to knock Open rival Lowry off course

    Tommy Fleetwood does not expect Shane Lowry or any of the contenders in the final round of The Open to be affected by the wet weather expected to hit Portrush on Sunday.

    Fleetwood heads into the last 18 holes in second place as he searches for his first major title. Despite shooting a five-under 66 on Saturday to move to 12 under, he finds himself four strokes behind Ireland's Shane Lowry, who carded an incredible 63.

    The Englishman is two clear of J.B. Holmes, with Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose seven off the pace in tied fourth.

    Tee times have been brought forward for Sunday because of the anticipated bad weather, but Fleetwood is not expecting any of his rivals to falter in the tricky conditions.

    "It's the best golfers in the world. I feel like the guys that are up there on the leaderboard, from what I've seen, are not going to be too fussed about the conditions. It's not like it's an advantage or disadvantage to anyone," Fleetwood said.

    "I personally don't mind the conditions, whatever they are. I feel like I've had some of my best rounds in terrible, terrible conditions, where I've enjoyed grinding it out. So we'll see.

    "Shane has not played in sunshine and no wind all his life. So it's not going to be a problem for him, either."

    Henrik Stenson holds the record for the best 72-hole score in relation to par at an Open Championship, shooting 20 under in 2016, but Fleetwood will not set out to beat that mark as he attempts to overhaul home favourite Lowry.

    "Looking at the numbers is like a dangerous game and it's not something I'll be doing," Fleetwood added. "It will be one step at a time, like the usual stuff. And if the weather is really rough, you rule that out and get out of it what you can.

    "It will be a very, very good effort if it's me [who wins], and if it's not me or Shane, it will be a very, very good effort for somebody else. For sure, we'll see how it goes.

    "It's going to be another chapter in my career, no matter what happens. And it's going to be a very special day."

    Holmes went into the weekend in a share of the lead with Lowry, who he expects to endure a difficult day trying to win his first major regardless of the size of his advantage.

    "It's tough no matter whether you have a one-shot lead or five-shot lead. It's tough to finish off a major. It's a tough test. So we'll see," said Holmes. "See what he does tomorrow, and I can go out and hopefully put up the number and give him something to look at.

    "You never know with the weather, it can be blowing. I don't know. There's a lot of golf left to go. But I put myself in a good position and go out there tomorrow and keep trucking."

  • Open leader Lowry in disbelief at Portrush support Open leader Lowry in disbelief at Portrush support

    Shane Lowry described Saturday's stunning round at an electric Royal Portrush as his "most incredible day" on a golf course as the Irishman took control of the Open Championship.

    Lowry's blemish-free 63 means he almost has one hand on the Claret Jug, boasting a four-shot lead over Tommy Fleetwood at the summit.

    The crowd in Northern Ireland lent their significant backing to the 32-year-old as he pulled clear of a stacked field of contenders to emerge as the clear favourite for the title.

    He closed his round with three birdies from the last four holes and Portrush erupted in joy as he left playing partner and overnight co-leader J.B. Holmes six strokes adrift.

    "Honestly, that's the most incredible day I've ever had on the golf course. I honestly can't explain what it was like," said a beaming Lowry.

    "I said to Bo [caddie Brian Martin] walking off the 17th tee, 'We might never have a day like this on the golf course again. So let's enjoy this next half hour'.

    "And that's what I did. The crowd was incredible. I just can't believe what it was like.

    "I can imagine it was quite difficult for J.B. to play with that. But I found it OK, anyway."

    Lowry has never won a major but he does have experience of holding a four-shot lead going into the last round of one.

    He did so at Oakmont in 2016 and shot a 76 on the final day as victory slipped from his grasp, but he claims to have learned from that.

    "I said to Bo when I finished, look at the leaderboard, four ahead. I said to Bo, 'At least I won't have to answer any questions about Oakmont, I'm four ahead going into the final round of a major'," Lowry joked.

    "Obviously I learned a lot that day. I learned a lot about myself at Oakmont. I'm going to learn a lot about myself tomorrow [Sunday].

    "I think I learned a few things that day about playing in the final round of a major with a lead, that you need to just hang in until the very last minute.

    "You never know what can happen."

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