CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – Were you to build the perfect beast to play Quail Hollow in this PGA Championship, the prerequisites would include:
- Big-time power off the tee with enough control to find the fairway with a degree of regularity;
- A comfort level on fast, sloping greens;
- And, a mindset that comes alive in major championships.
Little wonder then that U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka opened with a 3-under-par 68 that put him near the first-round lead on a warm, muggy day when Quail Hollow was in an unforgiving mood.
The king of chill just keeps rolling along.
Only two things bothered Koepka Thursday – the runaway speed of the rolling greens and the marshal whose head got in the way of Koepka’s moonshot tee ball on the par-4 16th hole. The ball hit the marshal square on the top of his head and sounded like a limb breaking when it did.
The marshal went down immediately and by the time Koepka arrived on the scene, the marshal was lying down holding his bloody cap to his head while doctors checked him over. “I felt terrible about it. I mean, that’s never fun to walk up and see somebody, you just drilled them. I drilled him in the head, which is probably the worst part. To be honest with you, I felt like crap,” Koepka said.
“He was laughing and joking when I was up there, kept telling me, ‘You got a good break’ (Koepka’s ball bounced 40 yards into the fairway). I was like, well, still feel like crap. But I got his information so I’ll probably reach out to him tonight and see how he’s doing. I’m sure he’s going to have quite a big headache.”
There were no headaches for Koepka Thursday. With the fairways still softened by early-week rains, his power becomes a greater advantage. Need an example? Koepka hit driver-pitching wedge to the 520-yard first hole.
“This golf course, it’s a bomber’s paradise I think,” he said.