FARMINGDALE: Brooks Koepka planted one hand firmly on the Wanamaker Trophy when he bolted to a seven-stroke lead after the second round at the PGA Championship on Friday.
The American carded a five-under-par 65 at Bethpage Black to set a the lowest score for the first 36 holes in major championship history – 12-under 128.
The American had started the day only one stroke ahead but ended it surely only two solid rounds away from becoming the first player to hold back-to-back PGA Championship and US Open titles at the same time.
Koepka, however, said Friday’s round was still a struggle.
“This probably sounds bad, but today was a battle,” Koepka said. “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 today.”
Grand slam-seeking Jordan Spieth (66) and Adam Scott (64) were equal second on five-under, with world number one Dustin Johnson part of a group eight behind.
Tiger Woods missed the cut in his first start since winning the Masters a month ago, putting poorly in the first round and driving badly in the second to record a five-over 145 score.
Playing in the same group as Koepka, 43-year-old Woods looked a shadow of the man who memorably grabbed a 15th major title at Augusta National.
Koepka showed from the start he was not going to abandon his attacking philosophy on Friday.
Taking advantage of the relatively easy early stretch, he plundered birdies at three of the first four holes, and then added four more in the closing six holes.
His bogey at the 10th was his first in his two rounds, while he also dropped a shot at the 17th.
He enjoyed a slice of luck at the last when his approach barely cleared the long grass in front of the green, but the ball bounded forward and he cashed in by sinking the 10-foot birdie putt.
Earlier, Spieth, who would complete the career grand slam with a win, overcame some errant tee shots and looked like his old self on the greens as he putted with confidence.
The three-times major champion, who arrived at Bethpage Black with just two top-25 finishes all year, began the second round on the back nine and made his sixth birdie of the day at his penultimate hole with a 39-foot putt.
“I made a few good par-saving putts and took advantage of the easy holes,” said Spieth.
“This golf course you can’t (force it). It requires more patience which feeds into what I’m trying to do.”