BETHPAGE (AFP) - There wasn't a ceremony and Brooks Koepka says he needs plenty more Major wins to match Tiger Woods, but the aura of golf invincibility has been passed, at least verbally.
It happened at the PGA Championship after defending champion Koepka fired a five-under 65 at Bethpage Black on Friday (May 17) to seize a seven-stroke lead on 12-under 128.
It's the largest 36-hole lead in modern Major history. It's the lowest 36-hole score in Major history by two shots.
And it's clear Woods, Koepka's playing partner the past two days who missed the cut with scores of 72 and 73, sees what happens when a new generation learns from his legend.
"At 29, he has got many more years ahead of him where he can do this," Woods said. "He paid his dues. He found a game and a dedication that he needed to play well and he's doing that."
Woods edged Koepka by a stroke last month to win the Masters, ending an 11-year Major win drought for his 15th career Major title. He won the first 14 with big 54-hole leads and sees Koepka's ability to do the same now.
"He's driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway. He's got 9-irons when most of us are hitting 5-irons, 4-irons, and he's putting well," Woods said.
"That adds up to a pretty substantial lead and if he keeps doing what he's doing, there's no reason why he can't build on this lead."
Woods can see himself in Koepka.
"Relative to the field, I was about that long early in my career, when you're able to hit the ball much further than other players," Woods said.
"We're both able to generate speed. I didn't have muscle. I did it through whip and timing. Brooksy has just got pure power and he's an athlete."
Koepka dismisses the hurry to anoint him as the new Tiger, even as he admits he has a great chance to win his fourth Major in his past eight starts on Sunday.
"I've got 11 more to go or 12 more to go before that happens," Koepka said.
Koepka said that when Woods shook his hand after the round, he said:"Keep it up. Great playing, and finish it off strong."
Koepka said it wasn't even a great day, lamenting his two bogeys.
"I didn't strike it that good. But the way I hung in there today and battled it, I think was probably more impressive than (his 63), not having your A game but still being able to shoot a great score."
American Jordan Spieth, trying to win to complete a career Grand Slam, and Australia's Adam Scott shared second on 135.
Spieth, who hasn't had a top-20 finish all year and hasn't won since the 2017 British Open, shot 66 while Scott fired a 64, a bogey at the par-three 17th costing him a share of the course record.
Englishman Matt Wallace shared fourth on 136 with Americans Kelly Kraft, Luke List, Daniel Berger and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Second-ranked Justin Rose of England was ninth on 137.