August 10th, 2018
St. Louis, Missouri, United States
Brooks Koepka’s strengths as a golfer were put on full display today at Bellerive. With the course playing shorter today, Koepka fired a second round 63, shooting 7-under par to get into the clubhouse two off the lead.
“I played really well,” Koepka said after his round. “Today I drove it beautifully, my wedge distance control was very spot on, and I was making those critical six-foot putts.”
With seven birdies on the card, Koepka was able to take advantage of getable conditions. His strokes gained-putting was 1.371, he hit 85% of his fairways and 78% greens in regulation. His 63 matches the lowest round at a PGA Championship and Bellerive Country Club. But for the two-time major champion, including winning a U.S. Open this year, his focus is on preparation and for being in the mix come Sunday.
“There’s a lot more focus and attention to detail that I have in the Majors,” said Koepka. “It’s very down to a routine this week and being disciplined. Eating right, going to the gym, it’s almost timed perfectly. Everyone on my team says I act a little different during a major championship week.”
With a PGA Championship win, Koepka would be the fifth player in PGA Tour history to win both the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same season. He will need to continue driving the ball in the fairway as well as making those crucial putts to keep within contention.
“it would be special. Any time you can win two Majors in a year, that’s pretty unique. And especially where I started the season. Missing the Masters and only being able to play three this year is quite disappointing, but trying to make the most of it.”
Schwartzel, Kisner Shoot Historic Rounds
Brooks Koepka was not the only competitor to have a historic day. 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel also shot a 7-under 63, tying the PGA Championship record for the lowest score in a round.
“I thought I had a good chance of shooting a low score this morning with the course being scorable,” said Schwartzel. “If you’re hitting it down in the fairway with the way the greens are designed, you can get the ball to about 15 feet on almost every hole. Obviously, in there you’re going to make those putts.”
Despite Schwartzel playing in the morning, he put himself in a position to be in the mix for the weekend, regardless of what the afternoon groups do. If he continues to put on a putting performance like he did today (2.36 strokes-gained putting), he will be competing for the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday.
“It’s a good position to be in, and there’s a lot of holes to be played. Most Majors, the weekends get difficult, but I think this course you’re going to have to keep shooting birdies.”
Kevin Kisner, who has been popping up to the top of leaderboards at majors recently, shot a low second round. With seven birdies on the card and a 29 on the back nine, Kisner is now one back of leader Gary Woodland, and once again will be in one of the final groups on Moving Day tomorrow. He was in the final group last year at the PGA Championship on Sunday as well as this year at the Open Championship, both times unable to finish atop the leaderboard. But the talented golfer is ready to rewrite his personal history at majors by finally getting the job done on the weekend.
“What we work for is to win major championships,” says Kisner. “I’ve made a bunch of cuts and competed in majors, I just haven’t, until recently, haven’t competed, had a chance to win and that’s been our goal going forward and I like my position going to the weekend.”
Top 20 Filled with Past Major Champions
One just needs to take a glance at the leaderboard to see the amount of star quality golfers in contention. In the top 20 currently in the leaderboard, nine golfers have won major championships. Of those nine, four golfers have won multiple majors. Jordan Spieth, who sits at three under par and seven back of Woodland, will need a special Saturday and Sunday rounds if he is going to capture the Career Grand Slam.
“I need something really special, but again just trying to progress each day,” said Spieth. “My putting, both parts of my game not only were better today, they also felt better. Sometimes it feels the same and putts go in, but I feel like I’ve given myself some more space through both, which allows me to not have to flip hands at either putting or the swing.”
World number one Dustin Johnson, who is coming off an RBC Canadian Open win two weeks ago, shot himself into contention with a 66 and six birdies on the card. Still only at one major with the 2016 U.S. Open victory, Johnson is eager to make the PGA Championship be the second major in his trophy cabinet.
“It would mean a lot. I’m definitely wanting to get that second Major. I’m in a good position going into the weekend,” said Johnson. “I played my back nine really well. I drove it a lot better though on the back nine. I’m going to have to play a good 36 holes though if I want to have a chance to win.”
Another major champion who had a great back nine was Open Champ Francesco Molinari. Having three birdies on the backstretch of holes allowed the star player to shoot a 67, putting him five strokes back of the lead. If he is going to be the first player since Rory McIlroy in 2014 to win the Open and PGA back to back, he will need to hit more fairways, as today he only had a 64% driving accuracy percentage.
“I played really well on the back nine. On the front nine today, a couple of loose tee shots on the front and scrambling for par. I think there’s plenty of birdies out there. You just need to keep it on the fairway. The greens have stayed soft. They were running nicer this morning than yesterday afternoon,” said Molinari.
“I’m probably going to work a little bit on the tee shots to try and hit a couple of more fairways tomorrow. I didn’t birdie the par 5s today. That wasn’t very good. You know, there’s stuff to do on the weekend.”
With a receptive, scorable Bellerive imminent on the weekend, hitting the ball straight and capitalizing on those makeable putts will be crucial. It will be a birdie contest, which will showcase the top golfers and their plethora of strengths, from driving far to making long putts. It’s going to be a fun next two days.