Happily in the Shadows, Brooks Koepka Sets Bethpage Black Record

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka has gained 3 of the ultimate seven primary golfing championships, together with america Open and ultimate 12 months’s P.G.A. Championship. He ranks 3rd on the planet, he tied for 2d at this 12 months’s Masters and he has now not shot a around over par since mid-March.

However Thursday, to maximum fanatics flocking to the 1st around of the 2019 Championship at Lengthy Island’s Bethpage State Park Black Path, Koepka was once simply one of the most guys enjoying in the similar crew with the development’s headliner, Tiger Woods.

Koepka didn’t take it for my part.

“Clearly everyone in New York goes to be cheering for Tiger,” he stated.

However Koepka was once additionally satisfied to make use of the platform Woods’s presence afforded to defy his afterthought status.

With a seven-under-par 63 on Thursday, Koepka established a path file at the long, daunting Black Path to take the first-round lead within the tournament. He was once 9 strokes forward of Woods, who was once a long way from the highest of the leaderboard with a two-over-par 72.

Most likely now not coincidentally, following his around, Koepka selected to enlarge the commentary his 63 had made.

“It was once nice that Tiger gained Augusta,” he stated of Woods’s inspirational victory on the Masters event in April. “However, I imply, we’re at a brand new week now.”

Woods didn’t wish to be reminded it was once now mid-Might and he was once now not at Augusta Nationwide Golfing Membership, the place he feels at house with each form and contour of the structure. The Black Path punished Woods from his first tee shot, which landed in deep tough and resulted in a dispiriting opening gap double bogey. Erratic all over the day, Woods seemed rusty and out of sync, which was once now not sudden since his ultimate aggressive around was once April 14, the overall day of the Masters.

Woods, who skipped a deliberate follow around Wednesday as a result of he was once in poor health, hit most effective 12 vegetables in law and had 31 putts, an inconsistency that ruined any momentum he inbuilt his 2d 9 which opened with back-to-back birdies. Woods, who stated he felt positive Thursday, had a possibility for 3 successive birdies however neglected a nine-foot putt.

“I neglected a couple of alternatives and simply didn’t stay it in combination on the finish,” stated Woods, who had 3 birdies, two double bogeys and 3 bogeys.

Greater than 15 golfers did what Woods may now not Thursday and shot below par, together with Danny Lee, who trailed Koepka via just one stroke. Lee, ranked 119th on the planet, hasn’t ever completed upper than 43rd on the P.G.A. Championship however does have 3 best 10 finishes this season at the PGA Excursion. Lee, 28, had seven birdies and two bogeys.

3 strokes at the back of Lee in 3rd position was once England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who has contended in a couple of fresh majors and shot 67 on Thursday. Different notables below par incorporated Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, who each and every shot a one-under 69.

Woods on Thursday denied that his lengthy layoff from aggressive golfing was once a contributing consider his asymmetric play. However Koepka, who performed in ultimate weekend’s Bryon Nelson PGA Excursion tournament the place he shot 4 rounds within the 60s, no doubt seemed extra ready than Woods.

At the 5th gap, as an example, Koepka pounded his tee shot 20 yards previous Woods after which knocked his method shot to inside 16 ft of the opening. Koepka, who had simply 25 putts, then sank considered one of his seven birdie putts.

Woods, in the meantime, landed his 193-yard method shot to the 5th inexperienced 32 ft from the opening and three-putted for bogey.

On show in that collection was once Koepka’s awesome period off the tee. However Koepka was once additionally extra exact together with his iron play to the fairway and demonstrably extra correct as a putter. It was once a pattern that endured all over the 1st around.

Koepka, who didn’t have a bogey, continues to turn out his mettle in primary championship golfing, a atmosphere that persistently withers different best golfers.

“He doesn’t look like he’s even frightened,” stated Koepka’s caddy, Ricky Elliott. “I don’t know why this is. It should simply be in him.”

Koepka, who has gained the ultimate two United States Opens, shrugs when requested how he maintains his equilibrium below force within the recreation’s largest occasions.

“I’m simply going about my trade; you understand, you’d like to make it tougher for them,” Koepka stated of his opponents. “It’s all the time great being out forward.”

The ones chasing him have spotted Koepka’s self belief at golfing’s 4 primary championships.

“I believe everyone knows that Brooks does an excellent task at majors,” stated Fleetwood, who was once 2d on the 2018 U.S. Open, one stroke at the back of Koepka. “I positive wouldn’t be shocked if he was once nonetheless there on Sunday. I believe while you get to majors, there’s unquestionably sure names and likely folks that you simply’ve were given to overcome, and as a rule sure names and folks pop up at the leaderboard.

“I believe there’s a similarity in the way in which that some gamers move about primary championships and in the way in which they get arrange for them.”

Fowler steered the long Black Path will play to Koepka’s strengths as smartly.

“The golfing path fits him smartly as a result of he drives the ball smartly — and a long way, which shortens one of the crucial actually lengthy par 4s right here,” Fowler stated. “We’ve come to be expecting this of Brooks within the majors. It’s no marvel.”

Woods was once similarly inspired via Koepka Thursday.

“I believe 63 was once the easiest rating he can have shot lately,” Woods stated. “It would were a couple of photographs higher.”

Koepka agreed. In some respects, he stated, he was once dissatisfied in his around, which tied the file low 18-hole rating on the tournament.

“That’s one of the most highest rounds I’ve performed as a certified,” he stated. “However I didn’t birdie any of the par 5s. The ones are holes you must be capable of birdie.

“That might were great to shoot 60. I suppose that may were beautiful just right.”

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