Farmingdale, NY- Brooks Koepka is the reigning PGA Champion. In fact, he is also the two time reigning US Open Champion. He’s finished top-ten at five of the last eight majors. All of this is easy to forget. Tiger’s brilliant final round at Bellerive last year stole Koepka’s victorious thunder at the PGA Championship, and record 264 round, and Tiger’s Master’s victory a month ago while Koepka finished second reinforced the “Koepka playing second fiddle” schtick.
Here at Bethpage though, that case is impossible to take seriously. From the opening hole, Koepka has been dominant. He did not take a bogey until the 28th hole played on the tournament. When he took it on the 10th hole, he quickly bounced back with four birdies in the final six holes of play. After two rounds, Koepka stands at -12, a full seven strokes up on his next competitors, currently Adam Scott and third round playing partner Jordan Spieth.
Koepka performed so dominantly while matched up against the reigning Open Champion, Francesco Molinari, and the reigning Masters Champion and greatest golfer of the century so far, Tiger Woods. Koepka has effectively turned one of golf’s biggest events into a one-man show after two days. He looks as Tiger did prowling the golf course at his peak in the early 2000’s. And Tiger knows it.
What’s so impressive about Koepka is that despite his success already, the three-time All-American at Florida State hasn’t lost an ounce of confidence, and is still finding critiques of his game. After Thursday’s -7, a course record at Bethpage Black, Koepka mused on how his mark could and should have been lower.
“I didn’t take care of the par-5s, didn’t birdie any of the par-5s. That was disappointing because I felt like you know those are holes you should be able to birdie. Definitely can reach, what is it, 4 and 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.”
After extending his total to -12 on Friday, Koepka was still critical of his own game. “This probably sounds bad, but today was a battle. I didn’t strike it that good. I was leaking a few to the right. But I don’t think — 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.”
He’s shown the compete needed for championships but also the ability to be lighthearted. He was asked about having the strength to cut through the Bethpage rough and quipped back: “That’s why I go to the gym”.
Brooks Koepka tees off at 2:50 pm ET on Saturday afternoon. His playing partner, Jordan Spieth, is one of the most likable players on tour and has a chance at a career grand slam. Notable names Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, and Justin Rose are also all a few spots behind him. Unheralded players like Kelly Kraft, Matt Wallace, and Luke List are also close on the position board. All deserve recognition for playing one of the hardest PGA courses well. Koepka is not only playing it well, he is dominating the course like few ever have.
A win would make it four Major victories in eight tries. Two were US Opens, the hardest tournament in the world. This one is on a course playing more like a US Open than a PGA Championship. Yet Koepka appears to be locked in and ready to go for a sixth career PGA win, with three of them essentially being US Open wins.
At tournament’s start, Koepka was an underappreciated player with immense Major experience. After two days, Brooks has become the only story at the top of the ticket. The record for most dominant Major victory was when Tiger Woods won the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes over Ernie Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez. After two rounds, Tiger led the field by six. Koepka’s lead is currently seven strokes. Potential history awaits the 29 year old.