Sparkling Koepka holds early US PGA lead as Woods struggles | - South Africa News

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Brooks Koepka is attempting to win successive US PGA Championships after winning successive US Opens
US PGA Championship first round leaderboard, Bethpage Black Course
-7 B Koepka (US); -6 D Lee (NZ); -3 T Fleetwood (Eng); -2 M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), C Reavie (US), L List (US), S Kang (Kor), P Perez (US)
Selected others: -1 M Wallace (Eng), R Fowler (US), D Johnson (US), J Spieth (US), P Mickelson (US); Level J Rose (Eng), G McDowell (NI), P Casey (Eng); +2 F Molinari (Ita), T Woods (US), R McIlroy (NI), I Poulter (Eng)

Defending champion Brooks Koepka ripped up the Bethpage Black Course with a stunning seven-under 63 during the first round of the US PGA Championship.

The American, playing with Tiger Woods, carded seven birdies to sit a shot ahead of world number 119 Danny Lee from New Zealand (64).

England’s Tommy Fleetwood (67) is third on three under, while Woods, chasing a 16th major, finished on two over.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlory holed his only birdie on 18 to match Woods.

But it was an otherwise laboured round for the 30-year-old, who won the 2012 and 2014 tournament when it existed as the fourth and final major of the year in August – this is the first year it has switched to the second.

Woods overshadowed by Koepka

Woods, who ended an 11-year wait to win a major at the Masters in April, had a mixed day, starting with a double bogey on the 10th hole, his first, before adding another on the par-three 17th.

However, the 43-year-old birdied the first and second holes before a 25-foot putt for eagle on the fourth hole moved him to one under.

But three further bogeys left him nine shots behind three-time major winner Koepka, who carded a bogey-free round, having said earlier this week he is aiming for “double digit” victories in the sport’s biggest events.

Bethpage Black is considered one of the toughest courses in golf, but Koepka, who did not birdie either of the par fives, told Sky Sports: “The funny thing is it could have been lower.

“I’ve hit it great for two weeks and I had no bad thoughts leaving the range, I feel very confident and good with where I am at.”

Koepka’s round was a course record at Bethpage Black and also matched the lowest round recorded at the US PGA.

Former US Amateur champion Lee, who was born in South Korea but represents New Zealand after moving there when he was eight, hit his best round in a major by four shots.

Although the 28-year-old carded two bogeys, he also recorded eight birdies, including a 14-footer on the last.

He said: “I’ve been working hard on my putting, mainly just to learn how to read more breaks and try and make the hole rather than hitting it five feet by.”

Francesco Molinari had to lay up on several occasions as he was over-powered by Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods

Fleetwood leads European challenge

Fleetwood, who is yet to win a major, is the leading European and, after being one of several players to drop a shot on the 10th when starting his round there, he chalked up five birdies before dropping another shot on the fifth.

The 28-year-old from Southport, who was runner up to Koepka at another Long Island course in Shinnecock Hills at last year’s US Open, told the BBC: “I’ll take 67, you can’t force it. You are going to have rough patches, you have to go with it and I’m learning about that in majors.

“You have to feel like you have to hang in there and hope something will happen. I enjoy the test, it tests every part of your game and your character.”

England’s Matt Wallace, who narrowly missed out on victory at last week’s British Masters, is among a group on one under.

Open champion Francesco Molinari, who played in the same group as Woods and Koepka, could not match his big-hitting rivals and often laid up, finishing on two over.

France’s Mike Lorenzo-Vera is in a group on two under after carding a 68.

England’s Justin Rose and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, both former US Open winners, finished on level par alongside England’s Paul Casey, who birdied the last with a 14-foot putt.

Spieth and Johnson in touch

Jordan Spieth, who is chasing a career Grand Slam after previous successes at the Masters, the Open and the US Open, is among a clutch of major champions on one under including Dustin Johnson, and Phil Mickelson.

Spieth had a solid round, picking up two birdies on his front nine, but came unstuck at the 10th as he carded a double-bogey six.

“Hitting under par on this course is great, so seeing what Brooks and Danny did is out of this world,” Spieth said.

“I’m going to have to hit more fairways if I’m going to contend.”

After a bogey on the par-four 12th, he moved under par with birdies on the 16th and 18th holes, the last of which was achieved with a 20-foot putt.

World number one Johnson had an uneventful round after a bogey on the first, picking up shots on the ninth and 15th for a 69.

Phil Mickelson, who played alongside McIlroy and Australia’s Jason Day, also finished on one under par.

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