Brooks Koepka knows how to perform in golf's major championships.
Playing with Tiger Woods and Francesco Molinari in the first round of the PGA Championship, Koepka served notice on the field at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York that he was going to push his competitors to the limit when he shot a course record 63 to take the lead as he pursues the fourth major championship of his career (2017, 2018 U.S. Open; 2018 PGA Championship).
As well as Koepka played, he could not sleep easily on the lead for a couple of reasons. First, Danny Lee was nearly as effective as Koepka as he shot a 64 and was right on his heels. The second is the Bethpage Black course itself. This is one of the most challenging courses that the top professionals on the PGA Tour play on a regular basis, and one great round does not assure any golfer that the next three will follow in a similar suit.
PGA Championship leaderboard at Bethpage Black (as of 11:45 a.m. ET)
Brooks Koepka, -7
Jordan Spieth, -3
Dustin Johnson, -3
Daniel Berger, -3
Tommy Fleetwood, -3
Danny Lee, -2
Sung Kang, -2
"That was one of the best rounds I've played probably as a professional," Koepka said, per the Associated Press (h/t Boston Globe). "This golf course is brutal."
Koepka, who played in the morning Thursday, is scheduled to tee off Friday at 1:49 p.m. ET with Woods and Molinari. Lee, who played in the afternoon during the opening round, had an early-morning start Friday and stumbled badly. He had a double bogey and two bogeys early in the round and was six over par on the round through his first nine holes. He made a bit of a recovery with his second nine to get back into contention.
Koepka had a narrow lead when he went to sleep Thursday night, but with slightly more than an hour before his second-round tee time his lead was four strokes.
Dustin Johnson, who shot a one-under 69 in the opening round, was two under par through his first 12 holes of the second round. The thought of a battle between Koepka and Johnson, two of the top power players on the tour, would make for great theater over the weekend.
British golfer Tommy Fleetwood shot a 67 in the opening round, and he will tee off at 12:54 as he tries to stay on the first page of the leaderboard and get closer to Koepka.
Woods, fresh off his remarkable Masters victory in April, did not have much of the magic he displayed at Augusta. He was four over par before he rallied with three birdies and an eagle to briefly move under par. However, he could not sustain it and shot a two-over par 72.
"It wasn't as clean as I'd like to have it for sure," said Woods, per Bob Harig of ESPN.com. "Didn't get off to a very good start. ... And then I found my way back around, got it under par for the day, and let a couple slip away with a couple bad putts and a couple mistakes at the end."
While Woods had his problems Thursday, he was impressed with Koepka, saying that the tournament leader left a few strokes (per Harig) out there because he missed a few putts that he could have dropped.
Koepka was in a commanding position as he begins his second round. If he can follow up on his opening round with another superb performance, he can put his signature on the 2019 PGA Championship. However, any slippage will give hope to names like Johnson, Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
Woods starts his second round nine strokes off the lead, and his first priority will be playing well enough to make the cut.