Brooks Koepka Joins the Greats with Third Major Title at Engrossing PGA
PERHAPS Brooks Keopka will now receive the credit his talent deserves. The American, who missed three months of the season because of a crippling wrist injury, won his second major of the year and his third in just six starts when he held off a charging Tiger Woods to land the 100th US PGA Championship at Bellerive. And if there was ever any doubt about the voracity of Woods’ comeback that was also surely laid to rest on an incredible final day in St Louis.
The record books will show that Koepka won the tournament with a 16-under-par aggregate total of 264, two shots better than Woods, who was going for his 15th major. Woods also finished sixth at The Open. Make no mistake - he is back, and it is surely only a matter of time before he lands his 80th PGA Tour title.
Woods, just a year after potentially never playing again, shot a six-under 64 that had the huge crowds going berserk. But the day belonged to Koepka. He began the day with a two-shot lead over Adam Scott, and promptly birdied the first hole and then held off challenges from Woods, defending champion Justin Thomas and Scott, resurgent after a miserable spell in the doldrums.
The roar when Woods birdied the ninth hole to move to 11 under par and reduce the deficit on Koepka was deafening, but Koepka simply birdied the eighth to take the lead back to two again. And all the time was the knowledge that Woods had never won a major when coming from behind.
“It’s the first time Tiger's been in contention and I've been in contention at the same time,” Koepka said, “so the fans definitely let you know what he was doing.”
Woods was impressed with what Koepka achieved. “What he did at Shinnecock [when winning the US Open], just bombing it, and then he's doing same thing here,” Woods said. “I played with him in a practice round, and he was literally hitting it 340, 350 in the air. And when a guy's doing that and hitting it straight and as good a putter as he is, it's tough to beat.”
Koepka moves to third in the FedExCup, becomes just the fifth player to win the US Open and PGA in the same season, and now has three majors, the same as Jordan Spieth, who closed with a 66 to tie for 12th place.
Scott played some hugely impressive golf. He birdied the seventh, eighth, 10th and 12th, and then put his tee shot at the 13th to six feet and holed that for another birdie to get to 14 under par. At that point, incredibly, he was tied with Koepka. And while all that was going on, up ahead Woods birdied six of the first 13 holes. He then dropped a shot at the 14th and it looked like his challenge was over. But then he hit straight back at the 15th, hitting his approach to 12 inches for another birdie.
There's nothing quite like a Tiger fist pump. pic.twitter.com/MEHWX5y0j7— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) August 13, 2018
“It was pretty cool,” Thomas said. “The crowds were awesome. You could hear the roars from different parts of the golf course. It's pretty apparent what a Tiger roar is versus anybody else.”
Thomas had birdies of his own at the 10th and 11th holes as he fought to keep hold of the Wannamaker Trophy, but Koepka was not to be denied. He split the 15th fairway with a 334-yard drive, knocked his approach to 10 feet, and holed the curling, left-to-right putt. He was in front again.
Woods hit his tee shot into a water hazard at the 17th and had to settle for a par when the very least he needed was a birdie, Scott dropped a couple of shots and Thomas bogeyed the 14th and 16th. Koepka then struck his tee shot at the par-three 16th to three feet for another birdie to move to 16 under, two in front. And he calmly parred the final two holes to secure his third major championship victory in 14 months, joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Jordan Spieth as the only American golfers who have achieved that number of titles before the age of 29.
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