Brooks Koepka running away with PGA Championship on Day 1


Brooks Koepka began his PGA Championship opening round Thursday at Bethpage Black by dropping a 40-foot birdie bomb on his first hole, the 10th. He ended the round by dropping a 33-foot birdie bomb putt on his final hole, No. 9.

And when the dust from his magnificent round had settled, Koepka finished with a 7-under 63 and looked like a player playing a different golf course than the rest of the field.

When Koepka, the defending champion, having staved off Tiger Woods at Bellerive in St. Louis last August, finished his round, he had a four-shot lead over his nearest competitor, Tommy Fleetwood, and a five-shot lead over the next group of players at 2-under that included Paul Casey and Chez Reavie.

Koepka was paired with Woods, the reigning Masters champion, and British Open winner Francesco Molinari.

Woods struggled early, with two double bogeys on the first nine holes — Nos. 10 and 17 — then seemingly righted his round to go from 3-over to 1-under before throwing it all away and shooting 2-over par.

So Woods is nine shots behind Koepka, as is Molinari, who also shot 2-over.

The amazing thing about Koepka’s round was not his final score or the lead he took, but the score he could have posted. The 63 he shot, which tied a major championship record held by many, could have been much better.

Koepka missed birdie putts of inside 12 feet on Nos. 11, 13 and 2.

He birdied Nos. 10, 14 and 18 on his first nine holes and then Koepka birdied Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 9 on his back nine. He finished with a clean card, bogey free.

Playing with Woods, whom Koepka has credited with drawing him to the game, was added motivation. Koepka got the best of Woods at the PGA in August and Woods outlasted Koepka at the Masters last month.

“I don’t see it as a rivalry,” Koepka said before the tournament. “It’s not like there’s a huge history there. It’s just really been the last couple years. So I don’t see it as a rivalry, although it is fun to play against him, best player to ever play the game. I’m just looking forward to this week, to playing with him. It’ll be interesting.”

With a victory, Koepka would become the first player to own back-to-back titles at two majors at the same time.