Scottie Scheffler back on top, Brooks Koepka makes a charge and more from Friday at the 2023 PGA Championship
ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Scottie Scheffler is playing the long game this week at the 105th PGA Championship. The 26-year-old Texan posted 2-under 68 at Oak Hill on Friday to share the 36-hole lead with Canada’s Corey Conners and Norway’s Viktor Hovland at 5-under 135.
“These are the positions I want to be in. I want to be near the lead. I don’t want to be in 30th place or going home. I show up to the tournaments to perform at my best,” Scheffler said.
Playing during afternoon rain, Scheffler made four birdies on the day, carding back-to-back birdies twice in the round. His iron game was sharp early as he sent a dart inside two feet at the first hole for a birdie and nine feet at the second to jump into the lead. He dropped his first shot of the tournament at No. 7 and then skated along with a stretch of six straight pars.
“I felt like I did a good job of grinding today. I had some nice up-and-downs and kept the course in front of me for the most part,” he said.
Scheffler made birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 but surrendered sole possession of the lead with a bogey at 18.
“To shoot 2-under, especially on a day where the rough got really wet and it was really tough to play out of, to post a number today was good, solid golf,” Scheffler said. “When you can kind of hang around the lead and stay in position and hopefully wait to get hot, it’s a good position to be in. I’ve done a good job the first two days of keeping the golf course in front of me and scrambling well…Tomorrow I’m hoping to hit a few more fairways than I did today, make it a little easier on myself, but ultimately, 2-under is a good round around this place.”
Here are four more things to know from the 105th PGA Championship.
Conners feels the love
Corey Conners reacts to a putt on the second green during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports
With the Canadian border an hour or so away from these parts of Western New York, Corey Conners has noticed the support from those from North of the Border.
“It puts a smile on my face. I mean, I’m not a super fiery guy. Try not to get too high or low, but yeah, puts a smile on my face,” he said. “Nice to know people are cheering for me.”
Conners has been giving them plenty of reason to cheer. He followed up an opening-round 67 with a 2-under 68 to share the lead at the midway point. Conners birdied three of his first 11 holes, including canning a 21-foot putt at the second.
“Felt like I made a bunch of key putts to keep momentum going, and that was really the key to the day,” he said. “My speed has been great, and I’ve been seeing a number of putts go in, which feels good.”
Hovland in the mix again
Viktor Hovland hits a tee shot on the fourth hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Viktor Hovland has been on a roll at the majors of late. He held the 54-hole lead at the British Open in July, played in the second-to-last group in the final round of the Masters and now shares the 36-hole lead at the PGA Championship after making birdie at 18 to shoot 67 on Friday at Oak Hill. It marks the 10th consecutive round that he’s finished inside the top 10 on the leaderboard at a major. Now, Hovland wants to be in contention late on Sunday. Why has he hovered around the lead but not been in the thick of it during crunch time?
“I think that’s been because I’ve just been a little bit young and stupid, just going after some pins that I’m not supposed to go for even though I’m feeling good about my ball striking and it’s easy to just feel like, yeah, I’m going to take it right at it and make a birdie here,” he explained. “Then you hit a decent shot, and then you’re short-sided and make bogey or double, and you just can’t do that in major championship golf. You just have to wear out center of the green. If that putter gets hot, you can make some birdies.”
Hovland credited his stat coach, Edoardo Molinari, and his swing instructor, Joe Mayo, for their help.
“We like to relate a lot to poker. There are certain — within strategy in poker, there’s certain frequencies, certain things should happen, so you bet at certain frequencies. Basically I was ending up plugged in the bunker short-sided a few more times than you would think,” he said. “It seemed like it would happen once or twice a round or something like that where I would just be in a terrible spot and cannot make a par. So he reached out to Edoardo, and we crunched some numbers and saw that I was just a little too aggressive with my shorter irons.”
Koepka follows Route 66 to contention for 5th major
Brooks Koepka hits a tee shot on the 13th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports
Brooks Koepka posted the low round of the day, a 4-under 66, and improved to 2 under for the tournament, just three off the lead and T-6.
Koepka showed great patience in the second round, carding nine pars on the front nine before wedging to six feet and making birdie at No. 10. Once the seal was broken, Koepka made a total of five birdies, including a chip in from just off the green at 15, on the inward nine and a lone bogey to shoot 4-under 31.
“I felt more comfortable with the putter,” he said.
Koepka, a four-time major winner and twice winner of the PGA, blew a four-stroke lead at the Masters. He was frustrated to get off to a sluggish start on Thursday. When asked about what motivated him to get back into the trophy hunt he said, “I just hate not being in contention. I hate losing more than I like winning.”
No. 6 is a beast
The sixth hole at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. (Photo: Gabe Gudgel/Golfweek)
The 503-yard par-4 sixth hole is known as “Double Trouble,” and it has been that and then some for players at the PGA Championship this week.
The hole doglegs slightly to the right and Allens Creek meanders across the fairway and protects long and left of this multi-tiered green.
On Friday, the scoring average was 4.75, the highest scoring average in relation to par in PGA Championship history.
“I mean, 6 is probably the hardest hole I’ve ever played. I don’t know what everybody else is saying or the scoring average, but it’s pretty stinking hard,” Scheffler said. “With how firm the fairways are, your line off the tee is right on the edge of those bunkers, and the ball can go through when you hit a good tee shot. Just challenging. If you don’t hit the fairway, you really can’t hit the green in two, so it’s just a hard hole.”
“I think the length, first of all. The tee shot is difficult. If you get it in the rough, you have no chance to go for the green pretty much. Even if you hit the fairway, it’s a pretty long approach shot,” he said.
The hole yielded just three birdies and there were as many bogeys as pars – 63 – 24 doubles and three others.
When asked if he was surprised that it had played as the hardest hole for a single round in tournament history, Scheffler didn’t hesitate. “No,” he said and started laughing.