Golf: Koepka stretches PGA lead while Tiger scrambles to make cut

Brooks Koepka of the United States plays his second shot on the fourth hole during the second round of the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 17, 2019, in Farmingdale, New York.
Brooks Koepka of the United States plays his second shot on the fourth hole during the second round of the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 17, 2019, in Farmingdale, New York. PHOTO: AFP

BETHPAGE (AFP) - Defending champion Brooks Koepka birdied three of the first four holes Friday (May 17) to stretch his second-round lead at the PGA Championship while Tiger Woods scrambled to make the cut.

After nine holes Friday at Bethpage Black, Koepka was three-under for the day and 10-under for the tournament, five strokes ahead of England's Tommy Fleetwood and clubhouse leader Jordan Spieth.

Three-time major winner Koepka birdied the first hole from four feet, the second from 10 feet and tapped-in to birdie the par-5 fourth then followed with five pars.

Koepka set a course record Thursday with a seven-under-par 63 and could jump from third to first in the world rankings by winning this week.

Woods, meanwhile, was struggling to reach the weekend after opening on 72. He hadn't found a fairway through eight holes, with bogeys at the second and seventh and a birdie at six.

But Woods sank a dramatic 20-foot birdie putt at nine, leaving him two-over, one under the cut line.

Woods won last month's Masters to end an 11-year major win drought and take his 15th major victory, but the 43-year-old US star had not played a competitive round since then until Thursday.


Fleetwood, trying to become the first Englishman to win the PGA since Jim Barnes in 1919, opened the front nine with a birdie and closed it with two in a row before a bogey at 12. He finished second to Koepka last June at the US Open at nearby Shinnecock.

Spieth, trying to complete a career Grand Slam, fired a 66. The three-time major winner is without a top-20 result this year or a victory since the 2017 British Open.

"Confidence has been there," Spieth said. "I figured if I stayed out of my own way, stick to one thought, (my game) was in good enough shape to contend."

Spieth could become only the sixth golfer to win each of the four majors at least once, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. But he doesn't expect that to create extra pressure.

"I haven't been in contention since the (British) Open last year. If I put in some good work tomorrow I'll be in contention on Sunday," Spieth said.

"At that point, it will be about winning the golf tournament. I imagine that will take pretty much most of my thoughts. But we'll see. I'm not sure what to expect." The layout at Bethpage Black teased some hopefuls and tortured others but allowed no one to threaten Koepka.

"You don't expect Brooks to fall at all," Spieth said. "I felt like I had to be within six or seven going into the weekend."

No. 1 Johnson pleased

World number one Johnson, whose only major title came at the 2016 US Open, reeled off five birdies in seven holes in one stretch.

"I'm pleased with the score and pleased with how I played," said Johnson. "I did a really good job. Hit the ball well. Drove it good. Made some nice putts. Gave myself some good looks at birdies.

"I'm going to need to play the next two days the way I've played the first two days." Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, another back-nine starter, suffered a nightmare opening with two double bogeys around a bogey, but four birdies in his last six holes for a 71 put him on the cut line at 143.

New Zealand's Danny Lee, whose opening 64 left him second to Koepka, battled to a 74.

The South Korean-born Kiwi was in the first group off the back nine and double bogeys at 15 and 16 left him six over, but four birdies took him into a share of sixth on 138 with South Korea's Kang Sung and Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond.

"Bethpage kicked my ass on the back nine," Lee said.

"Every single fricking hole on the back nine was super hard. I didn't have any other option than suck it up and keep playing." His early wake-up call didn't help.

"It was actually pretty brutal," Lee said. "I couldn't get up early enough. I should have set up a tent on the putting green."