Defending champion Brooks Koepka carried a record seven-stroke lead into Saturday's third round of the PGA Championship
Bethpage (United States) (AFP) - Defending champion Brooks Koepka began Saturday’s third round of the PGA Championship with plans to stretch a seven-stroke lead, the second-best 36-hole edge in major golf history, into a runaway stranglehold.
Third-ranked Koepka’s opening rounds at Bethpage Black of seven-under par 63, a course record, and a follow-up 65 produced the lowest 36-hole total in major golf history at 12-under 128, two strokes under the old mark.
The 29-year-old American left Jordan Spieth, his partner in Saturday’s final pairing, and Australian Adam Scott sharing a distant second at seven shots adrift.
The only larger 36-hole edge in major golf history was when England’s Henry Cotton seized a nine-stroke advantage over compatriot Alf Padgham on his way to winning the 1934 British Open.
But that’s not enough for Koepka.
“I would like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can,” he said.
“I still have to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do, keep putting the ball in the right spot and make sure that you don’t make any double bogeys – and I should have a good chance of winning the championship.”
If Koepka does capture the Wanamaker Trophy and the $1.98 million (1.77 million euros) top prize, he will be the first man to own back-to-back titles at two majors simultaneously. Koepka seeks a third consecutive US Open crown next month at Pebble Beach.
Spieth is trying to complete the career Grand Slam, having won the 2015 Masters and US Open plus the 2017 British Open, while Scott seeks his second major win after the 2013 Masters.
The best 36-hole comeback to win in PGA history was nine shots by Bob Rosburg in 1959 and Bob Tway in 1986.
Only eight rivals were within that range as round three began.
- Spieth eyes career Slam -
Jordan Spieth, trying to complete a career Grand Slam by winning the PGA Championship, was seven strokes back in second entering Saturday's third round
“I will be in contention on Sunday,” Spieth vowed. “At that point, it will be just more of trying to win a golf tournament.
“I imagine that will take pretty much most of my thought, but I mean, we’ll see. I’m not sure what to expect.”
Scott, who matched his low major round with a 64 Friday, isn’t giving up on making his own run at Koepka.
“If the guy can just keep doing that for another two days, then there’s not much you can do,” Scott said.
“But I think someone, hopefully me, will chip away (Saturday) and sneak up in the right direction.
“I know he has won three majors. I know he seems impenetrable at the moment in this position, but at some point he’s got to think about it.”
England’s Matt Wallace and Americans Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger, Kelly Kraft and Luke List were on 136 and England’s Justin Rose on 137.
- Century-old PGA drought -
Second-ranked Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, and Wallace each hope to become the first Englishman to win the PGA since Jim Barnes in 1919.
Justin Rose is trying to become the first Englishman since 1919 to win the PGA Championship
“I don’t like that so much, him being so far out in front,” Rose said of Koepka’s lead. “All we can do is just go out and try to play two good rounds of golf and see what happens.”
World number one Johnson is trying to keep Koepka from overtaking him atop the rankings as well as seeking a second major title after the 2016 US Open.
“I feel like I’m in a good position,” Johnson said. “With 36 holes left, I’m OK.”