Brooks Koepka Holds Off Tiger, Scott For PGA Championship Win

by Samuel Abasi Last updated on August 14th, 2018,

St. Louis, Missouri, USA : Brooks Koepka shot a 4-under 66 on Sunday at Bellerive Country Club to win the PGA Championship, his second major championship victory this year and third ever.

Brooks Koepka also won the 2018 U.S. Open, joining Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Tiger Woods as the only players to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.

Brooks Koepka becomes the 3rd player with multiple major victories at 15-under or better. Koepka also won the 2017 U.S. Open at 16-under. The other two golfers to accomplish this feat? Tiger Woods with 6 such victories and Rory McIlroy with 3.

Tiger Woods came close to preventing that feat, as he put together another fiery rally to challenge Koepka for the crown.

Woods shot a 6-under-par 64 on the day to finish in second, marking his second consecutive top-10 finish in a major after tying for sixth place at The Open last month. Woods’ final-round 64 was his lowest score in the last round of a major in his career.

“What he did at Shinnecock – just bombing it – and he did the same thing here,” Woods told reporters about Koepka’s recent performances. “I played with him during a practice round and he was literally hitting it 340, 350 in the air. When a guy is doing that and hitting it straight, and as good of a putter as he is, it’s tough to beat.”

Similar to Woods, Australia’s Adam Scott challenged Koepka in the final round. Scott carded a 67 on Sunday and jockeyed with Koepka and Woods throughout the back nine. Scott finished in third at 13-under-par.

American Stewart Cink (-11) and Spain’s Jon Rahm (-11) rounded out the top five in a tie for the fourth position.

Justin Thomas, who won the PGA Championship last year, carded a 10-under-par for a share of sixth place. Jordan Spieth’s slow start and Rickie Fowler’s disappointing finish led to a tie at 12th place, with both sitting at 8-under-par. Rory McIlroy (-2) ended in a tie for 50th.

“It was kind of the first time Tiger’s been in contention and I’ve been in contention at the same time, so the fans definitely let you know what he was doing,” Koepka said. “And I was playing with Scotty, so I knew what I was up against. And Scotty played unbelievably well, and so did Tiger. They definitely made me question it there for a bit or think about it, for sure.”

Koepka may have entertained a few doubts, but they never threw him off course. How fine was Koepka’s focus? On the first and eighth holes, Koepka stepped up and sank birdie putts as thunderous roars shook the course after birdie strikes by Woods, who played one hole ahead of the final pair.

Woods did not hit a fairway on the front nine, yet managed to make the turn in three under, with four birdies and a bogey. He birdied four of his last seven holes, including the 18th on a perfectly struck 19-foot putt, to seal his lowest finishing round in 80 major starts.

“I had to go get it and I tried,” said Woods, who had a large contingent of media members and recognizable faces following him inside the ropes, including Michael Phelps, the 28-time Olympic medalist, and Governor Mike Parson of Missouri.

It was Woods’s best showing in a major since his runner-up finish to Y.E. Yang at the 2009 P.G.A. Championship — though he did hold the final-day lead briefly at last month’s British Open on his way to a tie for sixth.

Woods’s second-place finish Sunday came in his 14th official start since he returned in January from a last-resort lumbar fusion surgery. The operation, in April 2017, was his fourth lower-back procedure since April 2014, and as he recovered last summer, his competitive future was uncertain.

At this time a year ago, Woods had not been cleared to take full swings. His main goal then was not to resume his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major championships or Sam Snead’s 82 PGA Tour victories, but to live a pain-free life.

Asked on Sunday if he was surprised to have contended in two majors this year, Woods, who used to say that he entered every major expecting to win, replied: “I didn’t even know if I was going to play golf again. So, yeah.”

Given everything that he has been through, Woods’s five top-six finishes this year have left him feeling blessed, he said.

“I’m just happy to be back playing again, competing, grinding out there and working my way up the leaderboard,” Woods, 42, said last week.

After arriving at the tournament with muted expectations, Woods left without the Wanamaker Trophy, the heftiest trophy in golf at 27 pounds, but with a weighted question answered: Yes, he is officially back.

“I didn’t know when I was going to start this year and how many tournaments I was going to play, how well I was going to play,” Woods said. “I didn’t know what swing I was going to use either.”

“So I had to kind of figure this out on my own,” he added, “and it’s been really hard, it’s a lot harder than people think. And I’m just very pleased at what I’ve done so far.”

Koepka, the first player since Woods in 2000 to win the United States Open and P.G.A. Championship in the same year, had his own physical setback to overcome. At the end of last year, he sustained a wrist injury that kept him out of the Masters in April. The P.G.A. Championship was his 12th individual stroke-play start of the tour’s 2017-18 season.

“To think where I was four months ago, to come out here and play as well as I did, it’s really incredible,” Koepka said, adding, “I can’t even put into words how well I played, and I’m so excited for myself and my caddie and my team.”

With drives that averaged more than 324 yards on Sunday, Koepka overpowered the course in a way that left Woods slack-jawed. Of course, Woods has only himself to blame for golf’s millennial muscle men, led by Koepka. They have taken the fitness regimen that Woods brought to golf and super-sized it; Koepka spent 90 minutes at a local fitness center on Saturday and on Sunday, getting in weight and cardio workouts before hitting the course.

“I played with him in a practice round and he was literally hitting it 340, 350 in the air,” Woods said. “And when a guy’s doing that and hitting it straight and as good a putter as he is, it’s tough to beat.”

Woods’s caddie, Joe LaCava, interpreted Woods’s right uppercut after his final birdie as a sign that the invigorated Woods felt up to the challenge.

“He’s pretty pumped for himself,” said LaCava, who was on Woods’s bag during his five-victory season in 2013. “He’s getting there,” LaCava added. “He’s close.”

Brooks Koepka has climbed to number two in the world rankings after winning his second major of the year at the PGA Championship on Sunday.

Also, championship runner-up Tiger Woods climbed 24 spots to 26th.

Brooks Koepka’s victory helped to put pressure on rankings leader Dustin Johnson.

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Samuel Abasi

Samuel Abasi

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