Brooks Koepka untouchable at US PGA as Woods misses the halfway cut


They continue to swing and miss at Brooks Koepka. Closing time drunks may have more of a hit rate than those seeking to topple this major specialist. The 29-year-old has two rounds left to conclude a successful defence of the US PGA Championship. Koepka’s lead, which for now sits at seven, has not appeared under serious threat at any stage over the first 36 holes at Bethpage. This bears all the hallmarks of a sporting procession.

Danger – and plenty of it – caught up with Tiger Woods. The 43-year-old, on his first start since winning the Masters, suffered the ignominy of a missed cut. This marked only the ninth time in his career that he has lasted only until Friday evening of a major. A second round of 73 meant a Woods aggregate of five over. In truth he was sloppy throughout. Woods bowed out; others bowed towards Koepka’s 12 under par.

It would have added to Woods’s frustration that, as Koepka’s partner, he had such a close-up view of a player tearing Bethpage apart. It took until the 28th hole of his tournament for Koepka to drop a shot, with that damage repaired at the 13th. By close of play Koepka’s 128 shots – 65 of them on Friday – set a major championship scoring record. Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott are the closest challengers, if such a term is valid. Koepka in this mood is simply unbeatable. Bethpage? Brookspage.

A resurgent Spieth added a round of 66 to Thursday’s 69 to move to five under par.

History is on Spieth’s side even if Koepka’s touch certainly is not; on the previous three occasions where he has opened majors with back-to-back rounds in the 60s, he has won.

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“I feel like I am playing the way I’m scoring, which is nice,” Spieth said. “I haven’t been in contention since the Open last year. If I’m able to put some good work in tomorrow, then I will be in contention on Sunday. At that point, it will be about trying to win a golf tournament. It won’t matter to me what that tournament is.”

Scott was a shot ahead of Spieth and briefly within four of Koepka. The Australian, dogged by putting woes for so much of his career, duly missed from 2ft for par on the 17th. Scott, though, still had cause to be content with a 64 and the matching of Spieth’s total.

Further leaderboard gloss is provided by Dustin Johnson, who is four under par. Justin Rose is one adrift of the world No1 after a 67.

Rory McIlroy, having played his first three Friday holes in five over par, was heading for a first missed cut in 14 months. Instead the Northern Irishman responded in terrific fashion over the closing stretch. McIlroy’s back nine of 31 meant a 73 and plus-three total which ensures he remains for the closing 36 holes.

So what was the motivation to bounce back after such a fraught start? “Just pride,” said McIlroy. “Just trying to play a good round of golf and trying to get something that’s close to the best out of myself. I don’t like missing cuts. It’s not something that I’m used to fortunately and I wanted to be around for the weekend.”

There is a mitigating circumstance attached to McIlroy’s six at the 10th, his 1st. The hole has proved troublesome to many players when starting rounds there this week. “You go from the range and then you get in a car and you’re not hitting a shot for another 25 minutes,” added McIlroy of a 10th tee that might as well be in Toronto.

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Jason Day, playing with McIlroy, added a 74 to his first round 69. The third member of that marquee group, Phil Mickelson, will begin the third round at even par after a Friday 71.

John Daly’s US PGA unsurprisingly ended at the half-way point. More notable than Daly’s 11-over total was the fact he used a golf cart to negotiate Bethpage due to ongoing trouble with his right knee. Daly has requested permission to have the same mode of transport at Portrush for July’s Open Championship. “We have received a request from John Daly for permission to use a buggy at the Open and it is currently under consideration,” said a spokesman for the R&A. This does not read like a desperate desire to assist the 1995 champion. How far Daly is willing to push the situation in order to travel to Northern Ireland remains to be seen.

Ian Poulter, Sergio García and Padraig Harrington were among those following Daly out of Long Island. “I’d give myself a Z for preparation,” said Harrington. Benjamin Franklin nodded with agreement in the great clubhouse in the sky.



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