Koepka tries to turn historic start into rout at PGA

Bethpage (United States) (AFP) –


Defending champion Brooks Koepka plans to follow the greatest 36-hole performance in major history by stretching his record seven-stroke lead in Saturday's third round of the PGA Championship.

And the big question around Bethpage Black is: Can anyone stop him from pulling away from the field to win his fourth major title in historic fashion?

The 29-year-old American set a course record with a seven-under par 63 on day one, becoming only the third golfer to shoot so low twice in majors after Australian Greg Norman and Fiji's Vijay Singh.

Third-ranked Koepka then "grinded" his way to a 65 on Friday to stand on 12-under par 128 after two rounds, the lowest 36-hole score in major golf history, two strokes under the old mark that had been set five times, most recently by American Gary Woodland in last year's PGA.

That left Koepka, winner of the past two US Opens as well, seven strokes ahead of American Jordan Spieth, his playing partner in Saturday's final pairing, and Australian Adam Scott.

Spieth is trying to complete the career Grand Slam, having won the 2015 Masters and US Open plus the 2017 British Open, while Scott seeks his second major win after the 2013 Masters.

Koepka has the largest halfway lead in modern major history -- and it's not nearly enough to suit him.

"I would like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can," Koepka said.

"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."

If he does, Koepka will become the first player to own back-to-back titles at two majors simultaneously. He will seek a third consecutive US Open crown next month at Pebble Beach.

The best 36-hole comeback to win in PGA history was nine shots by Bob Rosburg in 1959 and Bob Tway in 1986.

Only eight rivals were within that range as round three began.

- Spieth eyes career Slam -

"I will be in contention on Sunday," Spieth vowed. "At that point, it will be just more of trying to win a golf tournament.

"It won't matter to me what tournament it is. I'll be pleased to be in contention, knowing that the work I put in from being pretty far off has really come back nicely on a very difficult golf course.

"I imagine that will take pretty much most of my thought, but I mean, we'll see. I'm not sure what to expect."

Scott isn't giving up on making his own run at Koepka.

"If the guy can just keep doing that for another two days, then there's not much you can do," Scott said.

"But I think someone, hopefully me, will chip away (Saturday) and sneak up in the right direction.

"I know he has won three majors. I know he seems impenetrable at the moment in this position, but at some point he's got to think about it."

England's Matt Wallace and Americans Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger, Kelly Kraft and Luke List were on 136 and England's Justin Rose on 137.

- Century-old PGA drought -

Second-ranked Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, and Wallace each hope to become the first Englishman to win the PGA since Jim Barnes in 1919.

"I don't like that so much, him being so far out in front," Rose said of Koepka's stranglehold lead. "All we can do is just go out and try to play two good rounds of golf and see what happens."

World number one Johnson is trying to keep Koepka from overtaking him atop the rankings as well as seeking a second major title after the 2016 US Open.

"I feel like I'm in a good position," Johnson said. "With 36 holes left, I'm OK."