Brooks Koepka, Happily in the Shadows, reports Bethpage Black

Posted by on May 17, 2019  /   Posted in golf reviews

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Brooks Koepka has won three of the last eight major golf championships, including the P.G.A. from last year. Championship. He is in third place in the world, he is second in this year's Masters and has not played a round since mid-March.

But Thursday, most fans flock to the first round of the 2019 Championship on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park on Long Island, Koepka was just one of the guys who played in the same group with the headliner of the event, Tiger Woods.

Koepka did not pick it up personally.

"Of course, everyone in New York will cheer for Tiger," he said.

But Koepka was also happy to use the platform that offered the presence of Woods to face his afterlife.

With a seven-under-size 63 on Thursday, Koepka set a course record on the long, frightening Black Course to take the lead in the event. He was nine strokes for Woods, who was far from the top of the leaderboard with a two-on-line 72.

Perhaps not coincidentally, after his round, Koepka chose to reinforce the explanation of his 63

"It was great that Tiger Augusta won," he said about Woods' inspiring win at the Masters tournament in April. "But I mean, we are in a new week now."

Woods did not need to be reminded that it was now mid-May and that he was not at Augusta National Golf Club, where he feels at home with every shape and contour of the layout. The Black Course punished Woods for his first tee-shot, which ended in a deep exchange and led to a daunting open-hole double bogeyman.

The day got worse, Woods looked rusty and out of step, which was not surprising since his last competition round it was April 14, the last day of the Masters.

Woods, who skipped a scheduled practice round on Wednesday because he was sick, hit only 12 greens in regulation and had 31 putts, an inconsistency that wasted every moment he built in his second nine, which he opened with back-up to-back birdies. Woods, who said he felt fine Thursday, had a chance for three consecutive birdies but missed a nine-foot putt.

"I missed a few chances and just didn't hold it together at the end," said Woods, who had an eagle, three birdies, two double bogeys and three bogeys.

More than 15 golfers did what Woods could not do on Thursday and shot poorly, including Danny Lee, who followed Koepka with just one blow. Lee, ranked 119th in the world, has never finished higher than 43rd on the P.G.A. Championship but this season has three top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour. Lee, 28, had seven birdies and two bogeys.

Three battles behind Lee in third place was the Tommy Fleetwood from England, who fought in several recent majors and shot 67 on Thursday. Other notables below par were Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, who each shot a one-under-69.

Woods denied Thursday that his lengthy resignation of competitive golf was a contributing factor in his uneven game. But Koepka, who played in the Bryon Nelson PGA Tour event last weekend and shot four laps in the 60s, clearly looked better than Woods.

On the fifth hole, Koepka pounded his tee-shot 20 yards past Woods and then hit his approach shot at 16 feet from the hole. Koepka, who only had 25 wells, then lowered one of his seven birdie putts.

Woods landed his 193-yard approach shot to the fifth green 32 foot from the hole and three-putted for bogey.

Koepka & # 39; s superior length of the tee could be seen in that order. But he was also more precise with his iron game for the green and arguably more accurate as a putter. It was a trend that continued through the first round.

Koepka, who did not have a bogey, continues to prove his courage in the big golf championship, a set that consistently stuns other top golfers.

"It doesn't look like he's nervous," said Koepka & # 39; s caddy, Ricky Elliott. "I don't know why that is. It just has to be in him."

Koepka, who has won the last two United States Opens, shrugs when asked how to maintain his balance under pressure in the biggest events of the game.

"I'm just about my business; You know, you'd like to make it harder for them," Koepka said of his rivals. "It is always nice to be ahead of it."

Those who follow him have noticed Koepka's confidence in the four major golf championships.

"I think we all know that Brooks does an excellent job with majors," Said Fleetwood, who was second at the US Open in 2018, one blow behind Koepka. "I wouldn't be surprised if he were there on Sunday. I think that when you go to majors, there are certainly certain names and certain people that you have to beat, and usually certain names and people appear on the leaderboard.

"I think there is an agreement like some players talk about big championships and the way they are set up for them. "

Fowler suggested that the long Black Course would also play for the power of Koepka

" The golf course suits him well, as he drives the ball well – and far, what the really long par 4s here will shorten, "Fowler said." We expect this from Brooks in the majors. It is no surprise. "

Woods was also impressed by Koepka on Thursday.

" I think 63 was the highest score he could have shot today, "Woods said." It had a few shots could be better. "

Koepka agreed. In some respects, he said, he was disappointed in his round, which brought the lowest score of 18 holes at the event.

"That's one of the best rounds I've played as a professional," he said. "But I don't have any of the par 5s birdie. These are holes that you have to be able to see.

"That would have been nice to shoot 60 shots. I think that would have been pretty good."

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