Koepka on Top of the World after Victory in Korea
BROOKS KOEPKA capped an unbelievable season when he recorded a final round of 64 to win the CJ Cup in South Korea - in the process, he became the new World No 1. Koepka suffered a potentially career-threatening injury earlier in the year and at one time there were serious doubts about whether he would be able to play again. Not only did he regain full fitness, but he retained the US Open and added the US PGA Championship in August, holding off an incredible charge from a resurgent Tiger Woods.
He has also just been named PGA Tour Player of the Year. The only black mark in what has been an incredible few months for the American came at the Ryder Cup when an errant tee shot struck a female spectator in the face, leaving her blind in one eye. Koepka was devastated and has kept in close touch with her. He was also forced to deny reports that he fought with teammate Dustin Johnson after the event, which Europe won, although captain Jim Furyk later said they did indeed have an altercation.
Koepka played brilliant golf for all four days in Korea, recording a winning total of 21 under par, to hold off fellow American Gary Woodland by four shots. As a result, he now replaces Johnson at the top of the rankings - the fourth player to claim the No 1 spot in 2018 (the others were Justin Thomas and Justin Rose). It may sound like he cruised to victory but Woodland gave him one heck of a battle, even joining Koepka at the top of the leaderboard on his way to nine-under-par round of 63.
But Koepka is a ferocious competitor and came home in 29 blows to snuff out Woodland’s challenge.
"To be world number one is something I dreamed of as a kid," Koepka said. "I don't think this one's going to sink in yet. Everything I've done this year has been working, so I don't want to change anything - just keep improving. I'm so excited right now, you have no idea. I can't wait to go play again."
The 28-year-old’s final round in South Korea included chipping in for a birdie from the greenside rough at the par-four 16th.
Earlier, England's Ian Poulter also made a significant move, as did Ryan Palmer, the Texan closing with seven straight birdies as he signed for a 62. Incredibly, Woodland led after making a birdie at the 16th but, playing behind him, Koepka picked up a shot at the 15th. But the real turning point for Koepka came at the 16th.
He put his drive into a bunker and was unable to find the green with his second, leaving the ball in the rough. It was a tough up and down, but Koepka took the easy route and holed the thing for the unlikeliest of birdies. Up ahead, Woodland missed a par putt on the 17th. Game, shot and shot Kopekpa.
“I knew it was good when I hit it, I just didn't know it was going to be in. For that to drop definitely felt like I had won the tournament right then and there,” Koepka said. “Pressure is all what you put on yourself. Pressure comes from fear. If you start thinking about the result or what might happen if you do something, that's the only time there's pressure because if you get any of these guys out here on the driving range, they can all flag it. So I'm not thinking about what's going to happen if I hit this shot or if I hit this close and make birdie here I can turn this into three birdies. I'm not thinking that. I'm just thinking, okay, how do I get it close to the flag or whatever I'm trying to aim it, get it there and then make the putt.”
This was his 12th victory worldwide, including four wins on the European Challenge Tour where he started his career. He now has wins in seven countries – the U.S., South Korea, Spain, Italy, Japan, Turkey and Scotland.
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