There isn’t much drama left at the PGA Championship. Brooks Koepka is taking care of that. As for excitement, Tiger Woods’ missed cut left New York golf fans crying in their beers.
Unless Koepka suddenly starts playing like the hackers who usually play Bethpage Black, he’s about to win his second straight PGA after winning two straight U.S. Opens. It would be an unprecedented accomplishment. Koepka already has broken one record: His 128 is the best 36-hole score in a major, ever.
He takes the biggest 36-hole lead in PGA Championship history — seven shots over Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott — into the weekend after firing a second-round 65. It’s the largest 36-hole lead in a major since Martin Kaymer led by six at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Rory McIlroy led by six at the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional and Woods led by six at the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. They all won, of course.
And get this. Koepka didn’t think he hit it well.
“This probably sounds bad, but today was a battle,” he said after making the first two bogeys of his week during the round. “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, 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.”
Indeed, Woods, paired with Koepka as two of the last three major winners, might as well have been looking at a young version of himself. If Koepka keeps steamrolling the field, he’ll challenge Woods’ record 15-shot victory at the 2000 U.S. Open.
“He’s driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway,” said Woods, who once held that kind of advantage relative to the field. “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 ended up beating Tiger by an astounding 17 shots, one short of a full golf course. Woods just didn’t have it, starting with a double bogey on his opening hole of the week. He hit just three of 14 fairways in his second round and you can’t play the Black Course that way. Unable to save himself with his putter, he made six bogeys and three birdies that added up to a 3-over par 73, 5-over for the week, one outside the cut.
His 18th hole was a perfect example of how he just didn’t have it. He needed birdie to make the cut but came up short of the green with an indifferent iron shot and needed a chip-in at that point.
It wasn’t totally unexpected after Woods’ epic Masters victory, even though he was the betting favorite coming into the week. He hadn’t played in five weeks and the rust was obvious.
“I just wasn’t moving the way I needed to. That’s the way it goes,” he explained. “There’s going to be days and weeks where it’s just not going to work and today was one of those days. You know, I’m the Masters champion and 43 years old and that’s a pretty good accomplishment.”
Koepka, meanwhile, just kept going, perhaps motivated by playing with Tiger. His demeanor never betrays him, though.
“It’s always fun to play with him and play in front of a large crowd and kind of showcase your stuff,” Koepka said. “You know you have to bring your game when you’re with him. You know he’s going to have a large support system out there.
“I mean, I think there was some guy yelling, ‘Shank it’ all the way up 18. I felt pretty confident I wasn't going to shank the driver. I mean, that happens every time you play with Tiger; New York. It’s fun. It’s just something to laugh at.”
Someone later asked him if he felt as though Tiger was passing the torch to him.
“I mean, I’ve got 11 more to go, or 12 more to go before that happens,” he said.