By Andrew Both
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Reuters) – Brooks Koepka kept the pedal down in the second round at the PGA Championship on Friday as Tommy Fleetwood gave chase and Tiger Woods just about disappeared in the rear-view mirror.
Koepka, seeking to become the first player to win back-to-back PGA Championships and U.S. Opens, showed from the very start that he was not going to abandon his attacking philosophy at Bethpage Black.
Taking advantage of the relatively easy early stretch, he plundered birdies at three of the first four holes, before parring to the turn to be 10 under par for the tournament and bogey-free through 27 holes.
The American was five shots clear of Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who had completed 12 holes, and Texan Jordan Spieth, the clubhouse leader after carding a four-under-par 66 in the morning.
Woods, meanwhile, was languishing down the leaderboard though a long-overdue birdie at the par-four ninth gave his fans in the boisterous gallery something to cheer about.
He was two over after nine holes, not yet certain of advancing to the weekend as the cut looms at three over par, or four over at most.
Playing in the same group as Koepka, 43-year-old Woods was simply outplayed and the Masters champion looked a pale shadow of the man who memorably grabbed a 15th major title at Augusta last month.
Spieth, who would complete the career grand slam with a win this week, overcame some errant tee shots and looked like his old self on the greens as he putted with confidence.
The three-times major champion, who arrived at Bethpage Black with just two top-25 finishes all year, began the second round on the back nine and made his sixth birdie of the day at his penultimate hole with a 39-foot putt.
“I made a few good par-saving putts and took advantage of the easy holes,” said Spieth.
“This golf course you can’t (force it). It requires more patience which feeds into what I’m trying to do.”
World number one Dustin Johnson (66) was joined on four-under by fellow American Daniel Berger (66).
New Zealander Danny Lee, one shot behind Koepka overnight, fell back with consecutive double-bogeys but steadied the ship and eked out a 74 for two-under 138.
“I had one heck of a fight on the back nine, made a lot of good putts, a lot of birdies,” said Lee.
“And I think I needed that to have a good momentum carryover for tomorrow.”
Rory McIlroy birdied four of his final five holes to ensure he would make the cut with a three-over 143 score, though he will need a miracle to reel in Koepka and the other frontrunners.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Toby Davis)