PGA Championship - Round One
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Brooks Koepka’s attempt at a PGA Championship hat trick didn’t get off to an ideal start, but the four-time major champion responded accordingly, posting an opening-round, 4-under-par 66.

Koepka is relaxed and at home at major championships. Even the historic task of becoming the first player since Walter Hagen to win three straight PGA Championships doesn’t appear to faze him.

While there’s no added pressure on Koepka, he admits hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy on Sunday would mean a little more after he missed out on the U.S. Open hat trick last year at Pebble Beach.

“Yeah, it would mean extra because I wasn't able to do it at the U.S. Open,” Koepka said. “I think that drove me nuts a little bit. I mean, obviously I played about as good -- I played good golf, but I just got beat by Gary.

“You know, to do it here, it would be special. I think -- I don't know how many -- I think there's, what, six guys that have ever won three in a row. Yeah, not a bad list to be on. That's the whole goal every time we tee it up in a major is to win them. The whole year is spent prepping for these four.”

The two-time defending champion opened his day with a par on the par-5 10th hole and then left his tee shot on the par-3 11th short and right. Koepka’s chip shot left him seven feet for par, and his putt coming back hit the left edge and lipped out, putting him at 1-over par after two holes.

But Koepka rarely is rattled, and he bounced back as champions often do.

Koepka parred No. 12 to steady the ship. After splitting the fairway on No. 13, Koepka stuck his approach shot to 11 feet and promptly poured in the birdie putt to get back to even par.

The par-4 14th hole was much of the same for Koepka. He pummeled his drive 320 yards down the center of the fairway and then stuffed an 8 iron to three feet. The tap-in birdie put Koepka back into red numbers at one under and two off the early lead.

But the birdie train didn’t stop there. After a par at No. 15, Koepka took advantage of the short par-4 16th. A 232-yard drive down the right fairway set him up perfectly to attack the front right hole location. Koepka beautifully stuck hit his approach shot to 10 feet, and drained another birdie putt to get to 2-under-par.

Koepka closed out his first nine with a bang. After a par on No. 17, Koepka stuck his approach shot on 18 to 11 feet and drilled the birdie putt to make the turn at 3-under par.

With momentum at his back, Koepka arrived at the par-4, 1st hole ready to feast. But his tee shot sailed right and settled behind a tree. Koepka had no choice but to chop it out into the fairway, giving himself 80 yards for an up-and-down to stay at 3-under. His approach shot came up short and kicked into the greenside bunker and Koepka left the hole with a bogey five to fall back to 2-under-par.

Another quick stumble would not deter Koepka, though.

He bounced back with a birdie at No.2 and then stuck his approach shot on the par 5 fourth hole to two feet for a kick-in birdie to get to 4-under-par.

Koepka made it through the teeth of the golf course unscathed, notching five straight pars, including a massive 11-foot putt on No. 8, to close his opening jaunt around TPC Harding Park at 4-under-par, one shot behind Jason Day after the morning wave.

Finding himself in the mix at a major isn’t a new feeling for Koepka. He knows you can’t win the tournament on Thursday, but he like where’s he at heading into Round 2.

“I mean, it's only 18 holes right now,” Koepka said. “I feel good. I feel confident. I'm excited for the next three days. I think I can definitely play a lot better, and just need to tidy a few things up, and we'll be there come Sunday on the back nine.”

No one expects anything different at this point.

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