BROOKS Koepka made history at the US PGA Championship as the American recorded the lowest 36-hole score in Major Championship history, obliterating the rest of the field at Bethpage to move seven shots clear after a second round 65 moved him to 12 under par.
The 29-year-old former European Tour winner and Challenge Tour graduate was in unstoppable form on Long Island and became the first player to lead by seven or more shots after 36 holes of a Major since Sir Henry Cotton in The 1934 Open Championship.
Koepka said: “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 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.
“I putted great. I feel like I even slide the putter right behind the ball, it’s lined up perfectly, and I don’t have to do anything. I don’t have to kind of adjust. I feel as comfortable as I’ve ever felt putting this week. You know, like I said, poa isn’t my favourite grass to putt on, but I felt like my speed control has been pretty good.”
Koepka, who won the US Open and the Sam Wanamaker Trophy back-to-back last year, registered his first bogey of the tournament on the famously challenging Black Course at the tenth hole and, while he did drop another shot at the 17th, seven birdies were enough for a five under round and a record-breaking cumulative total of 128 shots.
Jordan Spieth, also chasing history as the three-time Major winner looks to become just the sixth player in history to claim golf’s Grand Slam, shares second place with another former Masters champion Adam Scott on five under par.
Texan Spieth said: “I’ve really cleared my set-up, especially inside of 10 or 12 feet. I feel more comfortable. My eyes are seeing where the putter is pointed so I can be reactive to the correct line. It seems easy, but when that gets off, golf is pretty difficult and that’s where I’ve been the last year and a half.
“Now the putter is certainly better. The rest of the game, I’m able to stay a little more patient and just try and hit greens in regulation and I can shoot more consistent rounds.
“My bunker play has actually been less than stellar for my expectations, but it’s been really nice. I noticed that today when I was in them, I hit a few really good ones and one that I made a good putt that makes the bunker stats look good, but all in all, it’s better to be in the bunkers than the rough out here.”
Four-time European Tour winner Matt Wallace, from Hertfordshire, is the leading European, tied for fourth place alongside four others on four-under, while his fellow Englishman Justin Rose is a shot further back in outright ninth position.
Moor Park’s Wallace said: “I think anything under par around this golf course is very good. I think trying to move forward and trying to get better at golf, yes, I’m disappointed. I missed a short one on the seventh hole and eight, I hit the wrong club off the tee, really.
“I’m disappointed, but we’re at a Major. I can’t dwell on it now. I’ve got to move on and go for the weekend here. I stayed patient, didn’t get off to a great start, so I stayed patient and waited for my run, and it came in bundles from the 18th onward and I finished it off with a chip-in. So that little middle stretch was nice.”
Hampshire’s Rose, looking to add to his 2013 US Open win at Merion, said: “I think obviously it was good round of golf. Any time you shoot three-under 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.
“I missed one at one, a really short one at two, nice birdie at three, missed a short one at four, three-putted six. At that point I was leaving shots all over the golf course. But I stuck with it. I knew I was playing well, knew I was swinging it well today. I felt a lot more comfortable with my game. My iron play was much, much better today.
“I hit a few really tight to the hole, which was great and just stuck with it. Obviously I got a bit of momentum going around the turn and felt like it could have been a couple better coming in, too.”
Tommy Fleetwood threatened the lead midway through the day but fell back to a two-under total after a round of 71, while the reigning Race to Dubai Champion Francesco Molinari enters the weekend on level par.
Rory McIlroy battled back from a disappointing opening nine holes to make the cut by one on three-over thanks to a run for four birides in five holes from the fourth, after starting from the 10th with double bogeys at the 10th and 12th sandwiching a dropped shot at the 11th to drop to seven-over par after 21 holes.