Steady Koepka leads the charge for Dubai-based coach Peter Cowen's stable of golfers at Valhalla

The American sits five shots off the lead with Dubai-based Thomas Detry and Thorbjorn Oleson staying in contention on a record-setting day

By KT Golf

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Brooks Koepka of the United States follows a shot on the 17th hole during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 1. - AFP
Brooks Koepka of the United States follows a shot on the 17th hole during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 1. - AFP

Published: Fri 17 May 2024, 11:57 AM

Brooks Koepka, a three-time USPGA champion, is renowned coach Peter Cowen’s leading player in the USPGA Championship at Valhalla GC, Louisville, Kentucky with an opening round of four under par 67.

Having just turned 34 years of age at the start of the month, the American teed off from the 10th hole and opened up with a steady nine holes with birdies on holes three and 18, and a dropped shot on hole 17 to be out in 35.


On his second nine, he parred his first six holes and then finished impressively with an eagle – birdie - par, for a back nine of 32. The performance saw him in tied 12th place and five shots back of first-round leader Xander Schauffele.

Koepka was a man in form coming into the week having won his last LIV Golf event in Singapore a couple of weeks ago, and looks well-placed to make an impact over the next three days.


Koepka is a strong player who is at his best when he has a point to prove, especially in the Majors, as was the case last year after his Masters performance, having a two-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round and shooting 75 to finish four back of champion Jon Rahm. He then went on to win the 2023 USPGA.

After a disappointing 2024 Masters finish at tied 45th, he has another point to prove.

Joaquin Niemann of Chile plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship. - AFP
Joaquin Niemann of Chile plays his shot from the fourth tee during the first round of the 2024 PGA Championship. - AFP

Koepka is a USPGA specialist. At Valhalla in the USPGA 10 years ago, won by Rory McIlroy, he shot 66 – 67 on the weekend to tie for 15th in what was just his second appearance at the event. Over the next nine years, he has won three times and had three other top-five finishes.

England’s Matt Fitzpatrick, who is coached by Mike Walker as well as supported by Cowen, was three over par after four holes but rallied well with an eagle on hole seven and three other birdies for a 69.

Another of Cowen’s pupils, Joaquin Niemann (Chile) had a 73 with four bogeys on the back nine while

Dubai resident Thomas Detry (Bel) continues his good golf with a 66 to be tied for fifth. Denmark’s Thorbjorn Oleson, who also lives in Dubai, opened up with a 69.

Fellow Dubai resident Adrian Otaegui (Spain), who qualified through the DP World Tour’s Asian Swing had a one under par 70 having been two over after two holes.

Two other golfers who have made Dubai their home base, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) and Adrian Meronk (Pol) handed in cards of 72 and 74 respectively.

On the day 64 players had rounds under par which is a championship record that beat the previous best of 60 in 2006 at Medinah Country Club in 2006. Another record was set by leader Schauffele – the first player to shoot 62 in the USPGA Championship. These are impressive statistics over a golf course that measures 7,506 yards for a par 71, which was described by many as a ‘beast’ at the start of the week.  For the entire field, the average round one score was 71.29 at a championship that was first played in 1916.

The weather for the rest of the week suggests the second round will be cloudy with occasional showers and the possibility of thunder, with moderate winds of 5 – 10 mph.

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