FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – When playing a major alongside Tiger Woods, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and lose track of the task at hand. Just ask Brooks Koepka.
The defending PGA champ played the first two rounds at Bethpage alongside Woods and Open champ Francesco Molinari, creating a marquee grouping that featured the current holders of golf’s four majors. With Woods making his first start since the Masters, Koepka used the extra spotlight to obliterate the field en route to a seven-shot lead through 36 holes.
Inching closer to a fourth major title in less than two years, Koepka shared a story from the first time he played with Woods. That was during the final round of the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill, when Woods was in the middle of a five-win season and Koepka was still a little-known prospect on the European Tour.
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“All I did was watch him for nine holes. That’s what I grew up doing,” Koepka said. “I grew up watching him on TV, and I spent the first nine holes, all I did was pay attention to every move he made. Whether he was just picking up his tee, whatever it was. And you can’t do that. You’ve got to focus on your own game.”
That day, Woods shot an even-par 70 to beat Koepka by seven. It was a far different story this week on the Black Course, where Woods missed the cut and lost to Koepka by a whopping 17 shots during the two rounds they played together. After rounds of 63-65, Koepka broke the 36-hole scoring record for major championships and is halfway to successfully defending his title.
Having learned from their encounter six years ago at this event, Koepka reveled this week in his grouping with Woods in front of the raucous New York crowds. But when it came time to put the ball in the air, he was focused on his own game rather than his playing partner.
“I couldn’t tell you what shots Francesco or Tiger hit. I mean, I watch him, but it really just doesn’t register of what’s going on,” Koepka said. “I’m so focused on what I’m doing now, it doesn’t matter who is in the group, where it is. But it’s fun to have that energy of him in the group for sure.”