The scoring and course from the opening day were more in keeping with a US Open than a PGA Championship. We know the course has previously hosted two US Opens, so maybe this should have come as no surprise. We can expect a higher PGA Championship winning score than normal with several players making comments confirming that you need to drive long and hit the fairways. England’s Tommy Fleetwood the early clubhouse leader with a three under par 67 commented that any drive that misses the fairway by only yard means the professional is already having to contemplate making a bogey on that hole. All the competitors were unanimous in their praise for the course being a severe but fair test of skill. The one thing to make note of is despite the overall scoring appearing hard to the viewer, the golfers mentioned the wind and playing conditions were the easiest all week.
Weather forecast’s can be notoriously difficult to trust but there could be an advantage for tomorrow’s later starters on Long Island. With a blustery day forecast tomorrow we can expect the weather conditions to improve favourably for the later groups as the temperature rises giving Thursday’s early starters a two-day advantage.
Tiger Woods missing Wednesday’s practice was a concern for many. We know he is cautious with his back and schedule these days so no need to be too alarmed. Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari were his playing partners in the premium three ball group of day one. Starting at the tenth Tiger Woods made a double bogey six and the dye was cast for a difficult opening nine holes. From the turn the “Big Cat’ started the fight back with back to back birdies followed by an eagle at the par 5 fourth (his thirteenth). The “Heart of a Champion’ was beating strong in Tiger Woods as he clawed his way back up the leaderboard only to be scuppered by a poor finish of three bogeys in last five holes to card a two over par 72.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was his playing partner, triple major champion and defending PGA champion Brooks Koepka who was the only player tearing the course up. An outstanding best round of the day, a bogey free seven under par 63 put him clear at the top of the leaderboard.
If I am correct about conditions tomorrow being easier for the late starter’s then Brooks Koepka has earned himself a slight advantage over the half the field already. We all know what an impressive accumulator of major championships he has become. Brooks Koepka has made giant strides these last two seasons with two US Open’s and a PGA Championship. This week now looks set to be another chapter in a story of potentially becoming Golf’s most dominant player since his playing partner and good friend Tiger Woods reign. His effortless power working in tandem with his cool calm exterior will be tailor made for Bethpage Black during these next three days giving a great opportunity for a bet on him retaining the title.