Koepka seizes command with 63 at PGA while Tiger struggles
Bethpage (United States): Defending champion Brooks Koepka, chasing his fourth victory in eight major starts, opened with a record-equalling low score to grab the lead at the 101st PGA Championship while inconsistent Tiger Woods struggled at Bethpage Black.
Koepka on Thursday fired a seven-under-par 63, the day's only bogey-free round, to take a one-stroke lead over New Zealand's Danny Lee after 18 holes while Woods, in his first start since snapping an 11-year major drought at last month's Masters, settled for a 72 and a share of 51st.
Third-ranked Koepka closed with a 33-foot birdie putt to set a course record and match the lowest round in tournament history.
"That was one of the best rounds I've played probably as a professional," said Koepka, who turned pro in 2012.
It was the second 63 in as many years at a PGA Championship for the 29-year-old American, who joined Australian Greg Norman and Fiji's Vijay Singh as the only players to shoot so low twice in majors.
"My putter was hot today. It hasn't felt that good in a long time," Koepka said. "This was a crazy day, seven-under, it's not going to happen every day."
Lee closed with back-to-back birdies to shoot 64, added distance with his driver the key to his low round of 2019 and in 10 career major starts.
"I'm definitely hitting it further," he said. "That's a huge bonus for me. I'm interested myself in what I can do out there this week."
Tommy Fleetwood, trying to become the first Englishman to win the PGA since Jim Barnes in 1919, shot 67 to stand a distant third, one stroke ahead of France's Mike Lorenzo-Vera, South Korean Kang Sung and Americans Chez Reavie, Luke List and Pat Perez.
A pack of eight on 69 included major winners Phil Mickelson, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and top-ranked Dustin Johnson. Spieth would complete a career Grand Slam with a win while Johnson's top ranking is vulnerable if he doesn't claim the Wanamaker Trophy.