SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Brooks Koepka may have fallen just short in his bid for a U.S. Open three-peat last year but on Thursday the man who appears built for majors took another step towards a similar bold bid at the PGA Championship.
Following his four-under-par 66 in the opening round at TPC Harding Park, two-times defending champion Koepka was asked if a win this week would carry any added significance considering Gary Woodland denied him a chance to complete a hat-trick of wins at the U.S. Open last year.
“Yeah, it would mean extra because I wasn’t able to do it at the U.S. Open. I think that drove me nuts a little bit,” said Koepka. “I played good golf but I just got beat by Gary.”
Koepka is looking to become the first player to win the tournament three years in a row since it switched from being a matchplay event to a stroke play event in 1958.
The world number six suddenly rediscovered his form at last week’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, where he finished in a share of second place on the heels of a miserable stretch during which his best result in three starts was a share of 62nd.
Koepka, who started the year’s first major on the back nine, offset a bogey at his second hole with four birdies to reach the turn at three-under 32. He followed a bogey at the par-four first with birdies on two of his next three holes.
Since 2016, Koepka is 74 under par in majors, a staggering number especially when considering the next closet is Jordan Spieth at 22 under.
While the PGA Championship leaderboard was a crowded sight featuring many top names, Koepka was speaking a confident tone ahead of his second round.
“I mean, it’s only 18 holes right now. I feel good. I feel confident. I’m excited for the next three days,” said Koepka.
“I can definitely play a lot better, and just need to tidy a few things up, and we’ll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Writing Frank Pingue, editing by Pritha Sarkar)