Recap of the day
Morning wave: Danny Lee was the only player to get near Brooks Koepka on day one but the New Zealander’s hopes of knocking the defending champ off top spot were wrecked by an outward 41. He recovered to shoot 74 and post 2-under. Dustin Johnson hit a hot-streak with five birdies in seven holes on his opening nine to post 67 and 4-under, a total matched by Daniel Berger via a 66. But the morning wave ended with Grand Slam-seeker Jordan Spieth advancing the clubhouse target to 5-under 135 thanks to a six-birdie 66. Rory McIlroy’s championship looked over when he slumped to +7 after a horror start but four par breakers in his final six holes got the two-time PGA winner through to the weekend.
Afternoon wave: Playing about as easy as it ever could due to a lack of wind and soft conditions, Bethpage Black’s famous sign could perhaps be accused of false advertising. The “extremely difficult golf course” looked set to yield the lowest ever round in major championship history when Adam Scott moved to 7-under for the day after 14 holes. One more birdie to tie the record of 62, two to rewrite the record books with a 61. Instead, Bethpage bit back a little but Scott’s 64 was enough to match Spieth in the clubhouse on 5-under. And then came Brooks Koepka, who decided it was time to re-write the record books. Tacking on a 65 to his opening 63, last year's winner cruised to 12-under, setting the lowest 36-hole score (128) in major championship history. His seven-shot lead is the largest ever after two laps of a PGA.
Selected others: -2 Rickie Fowler, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Hidekik Matsuyama, -1 Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Evs Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Francesco Molinari, +1 Paul Casey, +2 Henrik Stenson, +3 Tony Finau, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day,
Cut: A total of 82 players made it through on 4-over 144 or better.
Low round of the day: 64 – Adam Scott
Tweet of the day: Eddie Pepperell: “36 holes without making a birdie. Don’t think I’ll be going the next 36 hours without pouring a drink.”
Revised betting: 1/4 Koepka, 16/1 DJ, 22/1 Spieth, 25/1 Scott, 40/1 Rose, 66/1 Fowler.
Saturday weather forecast
After the chilly conditions earlier in the week, Saturday should see pleasant temperatures in the mid-to-high 60s and may peak at 70 around 3pm. Winds are modest at 7mph.
Leaders after 36 holes
Brooks Koepka (65, 128) – Just wow. With playing partner Tiger watching on, Koepka continued to play golf from a different planet. Set the tone with a 331-yard drive and a flick with a wedge to 3’10” at No. 1 and made further gains at 2 and 4 to hit double digits under par. Bogeyed 10 and 17 but also birdied four of the last six holes to build a huge lead. Koepka now is a red-hot favorite to land his fourth major in the space of 23 months. Ridiculously, he’s 67-under in majors since the 2016 PGA Championship. So far this week: 1st for Birdies, SG: Approach, SG: Tee-To-Green and Scrambling.
Jordan Spieth (66, 135) – Two birdies against two bogeys going out but holed from 20 feet and 39 feet on his second nine, adding two more circles from around the five-foot range to be back in 31. Has hit just 15 (of 28) fairways so far and piped just half the greens in regulation today but ranks 1st in SG: Putting. Can he keep this going? (See Focus On below).
Adam Scott (64, 135) – Found the dancefloor 14 times today compared to 11 in round one but the difference was on the green where he gained over 4.4 strokes with the putter. Was on course to join Internationals team-mate Branden Grace as the only man in the history of the majors to break 63 before dropping his only shot of the day with a three-putt at 17.
Fate of the favorites
Dustin Johnson (67, 136) – Tied fourth is good. The problem is, DJ goes into the weekend a full eight shots behind his good buddy Koepka. Has gained 8.11 strokes Tee-To-Green this week but ranks only 63rd in SG: Putting.
Brooks Koepka – (See above)
Rory McIlroy (70, 136) – Rory needed a good start to try and close the eight-shot gap Koepka had on him at start of play. Instead, he stumbled out of the gate in catastrophic style, opening double bogey-bogey-double bogey, his worst opening to a round in any major championship. To his credit, Rory rallied to make the cut, holing over 75 feet of putts on the way to birdies at 4, 5, 6 and 8. Hit just five fairways (eight yesterday) and that’s no way to play Bethpage.
Tiger Woods (73, 145) – Beat Koepka by a stroke to win the Masters last month but here his fellow American outscored him by 17 shots! Hit just three fairways and it killed him. Nine bogeys and two doubles on the week although he only missed the cut by a single shot.
Brooks Koepka (65): “This probably sounds bad, but today was a battle. I didn't strike it that good. I was leaking a few to the right. The way I hung in there today and battled it, 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. I'd like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can. 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.”
Adam Scott (64): “I thought whether it (62) was possible leaving the 15th green, you know, 16, 17, 18 today are actually very gettable with the tee up on 17. I mean, it was a fleeting thought. Not happening at the end of the day, and in the end I was very happy to get it up-and-down for 64 on the last. Look, overall, you shoot 64 in a major, you've had a great day and I did today. I feel like I've just got my head into a good place this week.”
Jordan Spieth (66): “I still need to hit more fairways. Just like I said in here on Wednesday, I've got to be playing out of more fairways. I made a lot of putts, and I can't necessarily rely on that, and scrambled really, really well. I think I was four for four out of the bunker and a couple others out of the rough.
Dustin Johnson (67): “For me, if I can drive it in the fairways, I can get it going. Just need to roll the putter. I missed quite a few short ones there from 18 to 5. I feel good. I feel like the golf game is in good form. I'm definitely looking forward to a good weekend.”
Daniel Berger (66): “I hit a lot of fairways and chipped and putted well. I feel like that's what you have to do out here. You don't hit the fairway, you kind of have to take your medicine. It feels much more like a U.S. Open than it does a PGA, but we're playing for a major championship. It's just nice to play well the first two days.”
Justin Rose (67): “Any time you shoot 3-under par around Bethpage you've got to be pretty happy with it but it was also a day of what could have been. I felt I left a lot out there early in my round.”
Rickie Fowler (69): “I feel like I left a few out there. Haven't had my best stuff. Just managed my way of getting around and moving forward. Looking forward to tightening a few things up, make some more putts.”
Danny Lee (74): “I mean, Bethpage kicked my ass on the front nine. I had one heck of a fight on the back nine, made a lot of good putts, a lot of birdies. And I think I needed that to have a good momentum carryover for tomorrow.”
Patrick Cantlay (70): “I played really well today. I hit a lot of greens and when I missed, I got up-and-down most of the time. I missed a short putt on 12 and made a nice birdie on 6 from the rough. So, you know, it was all in all pretty steady today and I think more golf like that come the weekend, make a couple putts, I'll be right there.” Said before Koepka teed off.
Phil Mickelson (71): “It feels close. I'm looking forward to the weekend. If you play well there are some low rounds out there. We're seeing it, 4-, 5-under par rounds and hopefully I need to go get one of those.”
Rory McIlroy (71): “I don't like missing cuts. It's not something that I'm used to fortunately, and I wanted to be around for the weekend. And at least if you're around for the weekend, you can go out there and maybe shoot a good one tomorrow and at least give yourself half a chance.”
Tiger Woods (73): “Made too many mistakes and just didn't do the little things I need to do. You know, I had a couple three-putts. I didn't hit wedges close. I didn't hit any fairways today. Did a lot of little things wrong. I just wasn't moving the way I needed to. That's the way it goes. There's going to be days and weeks where it's just not going to work, and today was one of those days.”
Road to victory in the PGA Championship
2018 Brooks Koepka – R1: 33rd, R2: 3rd, R3: 1st
2017 Justin Thomas – R1: 44th, R2: 7th, R3: 4th
2016 Jimmy Walker – R1: 1st, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
2015 Jason Day – R1: 3rd, R2: 2nd, R3: 1st
2014 Rory McIlroy – R1: 4th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st
Notes: While Koepka and Thomas made relatively slow starts, by the midpoint both were set up for a weekend challenge. It’s a theme. In fact, going back to Tiger’s first PGA victory in 1999, just two winners since were outside the top nine after 36 holes, Martin Kaymer (T15 and four back) in 2010 and Padraig Harrington (T26 and six behind) in 2008.
Extra notes: As stated yesterday, we’ve also had two U.S. Opens and two Barclays tournaments at Bethpage Black and all four hvae favored front runners. In the 2002 U.S. Open Tiger Woods went wire-to-wire, the two Barclays winners (Nick Watney and Patrick Reed) were in the top two all week and 2009 U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover was T7 after the first round, but top two after 36 and 54 holes.
Fate of the 36-hole leaders in the PGA Championship – where did they finish?
Notes: In three of the last six PGAs, a halfway leader has gone on to take victory. Jason Dufner had a two-shot lead at the midpoint in 2013, Rory was one clear in 2014 while Walker was tied for top spot in 2016. Since 2012, Matt Jones is the only halfway leader to slip outside the top seven.
Focus on – Jordan Spieth
While he’s yet to have a top 20 this season (no, really), Spieth hasn’t been a stranger to leaderboards. At least before the cut. It means his excellent start here hasn’t come out of left field.
R1 Scoring Average: 35th
R2 Scoring Average: 3rd
R3 Scoring Average: 193rd
R4 Scoring Average: 208th
Those weekend numbers look terrible but the tide may be turning. Spieth shot a Saturday 69 at The Masters and fired a third-round 67 at last week’s Byron Nelson. At both those events he closed with 71s. His own take? “I think it's deceiving to look at first two days versus last two because I think I just got away with stuff random days that happened to be coupled together.”
Focus on – Matthew Fitzpatrick
Talking of contrasts, how about the young Englishman in the majors this year:
Masters – R1: 78, R2: 67
PGA – R1: 75, R2: 65
Combined, he’s shot 21 shots better on Friday than Thursday! Fitzpatrick added 68-70 at Augusta National to take T21 so don’t be surprised if he continues his climb this week. A T12 in the 2018 U.S. Open at nearby Shinnecock adds to that feeling.
Focus on – Rich Beem’s PGA magic
Beem sprang a 200/1 surprise when landing the 2002 PGA Championship at Hazeltine (although it’s often forgotten that he’d won The International on his previous start just two weeks earlier). The PGA is the only event he plays these days and it was no disgrace to be 9-over with six holes to play this morning. He’d had some fun, enjoyed the crowds and was all set to return to his day job as an analyst and commentator for Sky Sports in the UK. Except, the PGA magic returned. Beemer birdied five of his last six holes and, incredibly, made the cut. “I wish I could explain how or where it came from,” he said. “But I have no answers!”
Focus on – Driving Distance
All the talk in the build-up was that only big hitters could contend on this beast of a par 70 so is that playing out at Bethpage Black so far?
Driving Distance rank this year of current leaders