Brooks Koepka Joins Legends of the Game by Retaining PGA Championship
IT WASN’T the way he would have wanted to finish it off. In fact, at one point Brooks Koepka appeared to be on the verge of one of the most spectacular collapses in major history, but he somehow held on to successfully defend his US PGA Championship title at Bethpage Black near New York.
He went into the final round with a seven-shot lead but stuttered and stumbled his way to a 74 and saw his lead cut to a single shot as the tournament neared its climax. But Koepka will waken up this morning as a double US PGA and US Open champion after holding off the challenge of Dustin Johnson. Koepka finished on eight under par, two better than his fellow American.
He still led by six with eight to play but his advantage was down to one as he stood on the 15th tee after a run of four bogeys. However, Johnson bogeyed two of his last three holes and the leader looked comfortable again with a three shot cushion. In one of the most dramatic final rounds in recent major history, Koepka bogeyed the 17th and found trouble off the tee at the last before saving par.
England's Matt Wallace finished at two under alongside Americans Patrick Cantlay and Jordan Spieth.
Lest you have forgotten, this means he has now successfully defended this title and the US Open and, with four major victories to his credit, he has now moved level with Rory McIlroy and must be regarded as one of the modern greats. He may not be the most popular player on the planet on account of the fact that he speaks his mind, but nobody can now question his talent. He also nearly won The Masters in April and will surely start the US Open at Pebble Beach next month as a warm favourite to secure an unprecedented third successive title.
The US PGA began with a huge amount of attention focused on Tiger Woods and his quest to follow his Masters success with another major victory, but the 43-year-old American had played no competitive golf since Augusta, was feeling under the weather and comfortably missed the cut. As for Rory McIlroy, another major has gone by without him being a factor. So much for his claim that focusing on the PGA Tour would give him his best chance of winning his first major since the 2014 Open Championship.
This tournament was all about Koepka, who began the week with a stunning 63 and was in complete control from that moment. He dominated in a way that Woods used to and it seems certain that there is going to be more to come from this extraordinary athlete who found himself at the centre of criticism after going on a well-publicised diet. Once again, Koepka has had the last laugh. Nobody was able to live with him until his self-inflicted struggles in the final round.
Over the opening 54 holes he had recorded a mind-boggling 17 birdies. Remember that Bethpage Black is supposed to be one of the most difficult golf courses in the United States - and for many of the field, that is precisely what it turns out to be. Quite simply, Koepka was in a class by himself and has now won four of the past eight major championships. Nobody has come close to that sort of ratio since Woods was in his prime. Not McIlroy, not Jordan Spieth, not Justin Rose and not Dustin Johnson.
The 29-year-old's fourth Major title also makes him the first player to win both the US PGA Championship and U.S. Open back to back, and the first to be a two time reigning champion at simultaneous Majors. He is also now the only player under 30 with four Major titles and after conquering one of the toughest tests in the world of golf, there could be many more to follow.
He began the final round seven in front of Americans Johnson, Luke List and Harold Varner and the wonderfully-named Thai Jazz Janewattananond (try saying that five times quickly!). If anybody in the chasing pack was to have a chance they needed two things to happen - a fast start (a VERY fast start) and a stumble from Koepka.
Koepka played a poor second shot on the first to surrender a bogey and with playing partner Varner making a birdie, the lead was down to five. But as Varner fell back, it was Johnson who established himself as the nearest threat, playing an excellent pitch at the par five fourth for a first birdie of the day.
Koepka also made the most of the par five after finding the green in two but when Johnson hit an approach to eight feet at the sixth and put an approach to tap-in range on the ninth, he was just four shots back. Johnson failed to get up and down from sand on the 11th and Koepka put his approach to tap-in range on the tenth for a two shot swing and six shot lead but there was more drama to come.
The leader could only advance his second to the fairway after finding sand off the 11th tee and he had the same problem from a nasty lie on the next, going bogey-bogey and seeing his advantage cut back to four. He went a long way left off the 13th tee for another bogey before Johnson holed a ten footer on the 15th, and a tee shot over the back of the 14th made it four bogeys in a row. Johnson missed the green at the 16th and 17th for back to back bogeys but Koepka three putted the penultimate hole to take the drama up the last.
Historic. pic.twitter.com/aVQ3srP3nx— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 19, 2019
Wallace holed a 19 footer on the second but then made nine pars in a row before finding a nasty lie off the 12th tee and three putting for a double bogey. Another dropped shot on the 17th saw the four time European Tour winner sign for a 72 but he will be left to reflect on an excellent week as he took another step forward in his career.
Spieth and Cantlay both signed for rounds of 71 to sit a shot ahead of another American in Luke List, with just six players under par.
Dane Lucas Bjerregaard holed a six iron from 206 yards for a one bounce hole in one on the 17th, with playing partner Lucas Glover then making a bunker shot as the duo played the hole in a combined three shots.
"It’s incredible," Koepka said afterwards. "I don’t even know if I dreamed of this. This is cool. I am still in shock right now, this is awesome. I’m just glad we didn’t have to play any more holes, that was a stressful round of golf. The wind was up, DJ played awesome and he put the pressure on. I’m glad to have this thing (the Wanamaker Trophy) back in my hands."
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