BETHPAGE, United States (AFP) - Defending champion Brooks Koepka couldn't care less if he intimidates golf rivals. He's not too concerned about Tiger Woods challenging him. And he has never been so confident.
The three-time Major winner fired a bogey-free seven-under 63 to grab the lead in Thursday's (May 16) opening round of the PGA Championship, humbling golf's finest field and a Bethpage Black course that played havoc with other stars.
Fifteen-time Major champion Tiger Woods and four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy both struggled to a two-over 72s for a share of 51st place.
New Zealand’s Danny Lee fired his lowest Major round, a six-under 64 that included eight birdies and two bogeys, to stand second.
"I felt like I won this last year, I'm playing good, I've just got to go out there and focus on me," Koepka said.
"I'm there to do one job and that's play a good round of golf. It doesn't bother me too much what anybody else thinks."
He's not concerned if he has developed an intimidation factor such as that enjoyed in his heyday by Tiger Woods, who edged Koepka by a stroke to win last month's Masters and end an 11-year Major win drought.
"It was great that Tiger won Augusta, but I mean we're at a new week now," Koepka said of his playing partner for the first two rounds.
"You know what you're going to get when you play with him. Everybody in New York is going to be cheering for him and it's going to be loud, especially if he makes a putt.
"You've just got to keep battling and find a way through it."
Koepka's 63 set a course record, matched the tournament record and made him only the third player to shoot 63 twice in a Major after Greg Norman and Vijay Singh.
"Didn't birdie either of the par-5s. That was disappointing because those are holes you should be able to birdie," Koepka said. "Would have been nice to shoot 60. I guess that would have been pretty good."
It would have been the best in any Major ever by two strokes. But it's just another accolade for a player who can win a third consecutive US Open title next month at Pebble Beach.
"I've never been this confident," Koepka said. "I think I'm still learning, understanding my game. I've figured it out and over the next few years I'm excited for what's to come."
Koepka credited a 40-foot birdie putt at the par-4 10th hole, his first hole of the day, with setting the tone for his impressive round.
"When that putt went in, that was the momentum that kind of set me," he said. "I never once thought about the course record or anything. I was just trying to shoot the best I could.
"When I'm out there it just like anybody else. I'm at work and just trying to grind."
Koepka likes the supreme test offered by a course like Bethpage, which had only six sub-par finishers in two prior Majors combined.
"It tests every asset of your game," he said. "You can't miss. You can't take a shot off. And that's what I love. There's a fine line between 5-6-over and a couple under.
"You take a hole off, it could change very quickly out here. You've just got to keep the pedal down."