Brooks Koepka WINS the PGA Championship by two shots from Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler… sealing £2.5m in prize money and his FIFTH major
- Brooks Koepka took the second major of the year at the PGA Championship
- LIV rebel beat Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler by two shots on Saturday
- Koepka’s win raises questions on how the US can leave him out of the Ryder Cup
A month ago Brooks Koepka choked on the final day of the Masters and vowed it would never happen again. On Sunday night, as the sun set on the US PGA Championship in Rochester, he delivered on his promise.
He held his nerve, he holed his putts and across 67 strokes he bit down hard on Viktor Hovland and drained the resistance from a brave Norwegian who put up an excellent fight. With a two-shot win, one of the great golfers of this era ended a four-year wait for a fifth major title. Marvellous stuff.
There will be some, many even, who choose to view that achievement through the prism of what it means for his tour, which happens to be LIV, if you hadn’t heard. By extension, there will be debates about the sheer irresistibility of his claims to a place in the Ryder Cup and the political gymnastics brought on by those conversations.
Both are solid talking points that can wait, because first to the battle that played out at Oak Hill, and within it some more credit to Hovland.
He pushed Koepka, he thrashed at him, and he stayed in the race for as long as he could, which if we are to be specific meant 15 and a half holes. At that stage the gap was one, as it had been at the start of play, and those are the times when scar tissue can be a factor.
Brooks Koepka (above) triumphed at the US PGA Championship with a nine-under-par finish
For Koepka, that might have meant thoughts of how he ‘coughed up’ a two-stroke lead in his fourth round at Augusta. His words. As was ‘choke’. He has long held little sympathy for himself when winning goes the way of others, but in this slug-fest he did not blink, and instead it was Hovland.
The key was the 16th hole, when the 25-year-old drove into a bunker and stayed there, setting up a double bogey. One shot became four, and it is testament to Hovland’s resilience that he clawed it back to two.
Ultimately, he had to share second with Scottie Scheffler on seven under par, while it was Koepka who took his third title in this particular major.
When it was done, he clenched a fist and grinned – a big-game hunter who disappeared from view prior to joining LIV and became more obscure once he did.
The past two majors have since offered a reminder that no talent was lost in that transition, and likewise the knee injuries that previous threatened to wreck his career.
Focusing on home interests a moment, his revival will perhaps offer hope to Rory McIlroy. His final tally of two under salvaged a place in the top seven that seemed impossible based on his demeanour and swing.
It took heart but he has to spend time at the drawing board to figure out his direction of travel. There was also a top-10 for Justin Rose on one over, and the Austrian Sepp Straka, which added to Hovland meant this was a good week for Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald.
Returning to matters on the course, it was an exciting final day. The bright, warm conditions of Sunday were a marked difference to the various frosts, downpours and gusts that had thrown up so much carnage through the first three rounds.
As such the fairways were less firm and fast, the greens were more receptive and the rough lacked some of its bite, with the upshot being far more red numbers on the leaderboard.
The potential was shown by the scoring of the early starters and Cameron Smith best typified that with a 65, built on seven birdies. So there were possibilities and maybe even some hope that the East Course might permit a chase.
For McIlroy, starting five behind Koepka, it was always going to require the sort of golf he has failed to deliver in the past 10 weeks, and while he improved over the weekend, too much debt had been acquired for a serious challenge.
Ultimately he never got within the same postcode as Koepka and Hovland, who led a two-horse race for much of the afternoon until Scheffler later added another dimension.
In the case of Koepka, he was out of the traps rapidly. He birdied each of the second, third and fourth, getting to nine under, but Hovland was clinging on, with birdies of his own at four and five.
That put Hovland two back but entering the trickiest stretch of the course, Koepka drove out of bounds to the right of six and while he escaped with a bogey five, his lead was down to one.
It was back to two in Koepka’s favour after 10, but his demeanour appeared a touch more flustered at 11 when his tee shot to the par three plugged deep into the face of a greenside bunker. He barely had a stance, but if there was a good bogey, it was the one he salvaged.
Across the next three holes, they shared two birdies apiece, so the American was up by one at 16 when the key moment of this showdown arrived. The crux of the drama came when Hovland drove into a bunker to the right of the fairway, and 172 yards from the green, he bladed his sand shot deep into the lip of the trap.
He left with a six and Koepka twisted the knife with a birdie for 10 under and a four-stroke lead on second place, which now included Scheffler, who soon held it outright on seven under after closing with a birdie for a 65.
Hovland pulled level with Scheffler with a final birdie on 18, while Koepka, only needing to avoid an implosion, dropped one at 17 and gently cantered to a major win.
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