History for brilliant leader Koepka as Woods toils at Bethpage Black

By Sports Desk May 16, 2019

Brooks Koepka made US PGA Championship history on Thursday but it was a testing first round for Tiger Woods at Bethpage Black.

Defending champion Koepka carded a sublime seven-under-par 63 and was leading by four shots from Tommy Fleetwood after his opening 18 holes.

Koepka is the first player to card 63 in back-to-back PGA Championships, making seven birdies in a dazzling bogey-free round at a long and difficult course in Long Island, New York.

Much was expected of Woods after he ended an 11-year wait for major glory with his triumph at the Masters last month.

But the 43-year-old, starting at the 10th and playing with Koepka and Open champion Francesco Molinari, began his round with a double-bogey six and, although a birdie at the 15th followed, another double at 17 saw him reach the turn at three over.

Woods went four under to start his homeward stretch, but a run of three dropped shots between the fifth and eighth holes meant he ended up nine shots off the lead at two over par.

Luke List, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Chez Reavie were all in the clubhouse at two under, while Paul Casey and Gary Woodland were on the same score having played five and four holes respectively.

Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, who were among the day's later starters – they were each one over in the early stages.

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    Jordan Spieth says the conditions he played in growing up are why he enjoys playing links golf so much as he left himself well in contention after his second round at the Open Championship.

    The 2017 champion went around Royal Portrush in 67 on Friday and is five under for the tournament, which was four back of the leading score.

    Spieth also tied fourth in 2015 and was co-leading heading into the final round at Carnoustie a year ago before falling away and finishing in a tie for ninth. 

    "It's pretty much the style of golf," Spieth replied when asked about his performances in The Open. 

    "I always get pumped up for major championships, clearly I try to peak for majors and then this style of golf I've always found to fit my game pretty well.

    "I just grew up in the wind, having to play a lot of different shots and using imagination around the greens on the course I grew up at. 

    "So, it's different but it feeds well into this style of golf and then we don't see it very often. I wish we were able to see it more. I love links golf."

    Spieth's American compatriot Brooks Koepka – who has gone 2-1-2 in the majors in 2019 – also made it back to the clubhouse at five under.

    The four-time major winner feels he would be higher on the leaderboard had he been hotter with the putter over the opening two days.

    "I didn't make a putt all week. I just need to figure that out. If I can make some putts I could very easily be 10 under and really maybe more," he said.

    "I haven't made anything. On the front nine I didn't hit it as good as I'd like. I didn't pitch it as good. It's tough to really score if you're going to do that.

    "It's frustrating. You've just got to stay patient and just wait your turn, just like I did on 12 and 13 [where he made back-to-back birdies]. I haven't really hit anything too close yet, either.

    "I feel like some of my good shots have just been a little too far away from the hole. So, if I can just clean it up just the slightest little bit I could be off and running."

  • Open title contender Holmes feared career was over Open title contender Holmes feared career was over

    Open Championship contender J.B. Holmes feared his career was practically over just four weeks ago following an abysmal slump in form.

    The American carded rounds of 66 and 68 to head into this weekend among the leading pack at Royal Portrush on eight under par.

    His exploits in Northern Ireland stand in stark contrast to his recent outings on the PGA Tour, where missed cuts have been the norm.

    Asked if he had ever endured a similar loss of form before, the 37-year-old replied: "Never. That was the first one. The first one of that extent.

    "Obviously I've had slumps before, but four weeks ago I thought my career was over. Or felt like it."

    Holmes believes his return to the top of his game owes much to the Dunluce Links course, which he has tamed better than most over the first two days.

    "It's set up great for me," he said. "I felt good about it kind of all week. I've been hitting it really good.

    "I feel like me and my caddie have a good plan on it and we've felt comfortable and we've executed the shots."

  • Lowry off to a flyer as Holmes gets home at eight under Lowry off to a flyer as Holmes gets home at eight under

    Shane Lowry made a flying to start to round two of The Open Championship as Lee Westwood surged into contention and J.B. Holmes reached the clubhouse at eight under par.

    Overnight leader Holmes backed up his opening 66 with a three-under 68 at Royal Portrush.

    Irishman Lowry was at the same score having birdied four of his first five holes in an electric opening to his round on Friday.

    Westwood matched the seven under through two rounds posted by Tommy Fleetwood as the early starters capitalised on favourable scoring conditions.

    Justin Rose was at six under and had one hole remaining, with Cameron Smith and Justin Harding back home at the same score.

    Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth were three shots off the lead having completed their rounds. Tony Finau was also five under with a hole to play.

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