Brooks Koepka in Familiar Spot as 54-Hole Leader at PGA Championship

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Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka looks to win his second major of the year this year as he holds the 54-hole lead at the PGA Championship

August 11th, 2018

St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Brooks Koepka is a real fan of the major championships. He has 19 starts in major championships which include two wins and seven top-10s. In the non-major events, Koepka 80 starts, but only one win and 21 top-10s. As the 54-hole leader of a major championship for the second time this year, Koepka is looking to add to his trophy cabinet with a win this week.

“I’m just focused on me,” says Koepka. “I feel like, if I do what I’m supposed to, I should win the golf tournament. Yeah, there’s a lot of star power, and it should be, it’s a Major championship. It’s what’s going to make this event very exciting to watch tomorrow.”

The star golfer started the year with a serious wrist injury that prevented him from competing in the Masters. Overcoming this adverse challenge was Brooks’ number one goal, focusing on his physical conditioning so he can get back to competing at a top level. In June, Koepka survived the tricky conditions of Shinnecock Hills to win his second consecutive U.S. Open, the first time that has been done since Curtis Strange in 1988 and ’89. Now, this week at Bellerive, a course that rewards his aggressive style of play, Koepka will look to win his first major as a 54-hole leader and to be the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and PGA in the same year. 

“Coming into this week, I feel like I’m extremely confident. I like the way I’m hitting the ball, I’m putting much better, and my short game’s on point this week. So when all those add up, I could see why I played so well and am competing for a major championship.”

Koepka’s Third Round Captured by Strong Start and Finish

After a historic 63 in the second round, tying the PGA Championship record for the lowest score, Brooks Koepka started where he left off, rattling off a five under 30 on the front nine. At one point in the tournament, Koepka had a four-shot lead over the next best player.

But major championships aren’t meant to be an easy ride. They are meant to have obstacles and it is a golfer’s job to overcome that adversity which Koepka did brilliantly today. After bogeying 14 and 15, the two-time major champion made a critical par save on 16 to stay the leader. Then, on the par-5 17th, Koepka made a birdie to take a two-shot lead heading into the final round tomorrow. This week, Koepka is tied for fifth in scrambling and eighth in strokes gained-putting, two elements of his game that will need to be effective if he is going to win tomorrow.

“Any time you get in trouble, with this golf course, if you don’t put the ball in the fairway, you’re going to be struggling to make par,” says Koepka. “If you’re in this rough, you’re not guaranteed a good lie. We have had some bad ones, and you just got to get on with it and try to make the best of it. But you got to make those 5, 6-footers sometimes.”

And Koepka certainly made critical putts, sinking in crucial pars on 12 and 16 to keep his round solid. Unlike his previous U.S. Open wins, where Koepka was chasing the 54-hole leader, the two-time major champion will have to win the PGA at the top of the leaderboard heading into Sunday. But Koepka has preached this entire week about his laser-sharp focus in major championships, which will be put on full display tomorrow.

“I think a lot of the time it’s just I’m so focused on what I’m doing I’m not really, I never get upset. I can really tune in in the Majors and I have no idea why. They really get my attention. Every shot’s so important out here, and you need to be able to play well.”

Koepka Will Have to Fend Off Tough Competition in Final Round

Winning major championships is never easy and Brooks Koepka will certainly have to earn his first PGA Championship tomorrow. Chasing the leader is a star-studded list of top golfers, both young and old, who are ready to claim the Wanamaker Trophy. Koepka’s playing partner in the final group is Adam Scott, who is back in contention after a lengthy absence from being in the mix at major championships. The 2013 Masters champion is confident that his game is in the right place to take a run at Brooks.

“It was good to be back feeling like I had a chance to win a major at the Open Championship just a month ago,” said Scott. “At the 2013 Masters, I was also not in the lead. I was incredibly patient and I was playing well and just nothing much was happening until the very end. Everything seemed to happen then and it all went my way in the end. I hope the same happens tomorrow.”

The three golfers who are tied for third have not won a major championship. Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, and Gary Woodland will all be looking to make history tomorrow by winning their first major. For Fowler, he has had multiple runner-ups and top-10s at majors, so winning tomorrow would be extra sweet.

“It’s just how comfortable and how confident I’ll feel tomorrow versus maybe when you look at three, four, five years ago. It will be fun,” said Fowler. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to take a solid round of golf from whoever’s going to win tomorrow because there’s a lot of guys.”

“The only Major I really had a chance was at Augusta, and I was 6 back starting the day, and I think at one point I was 2 or 3 back. It’s a good feeling,” said Rahm after his round of a four under 66. “I’ve been working hard to change some things. It’s great to see it’s peaking at the right point, at the right time, and I’m having a chance on Sunday to contend for my first Major.”

“I was happy with the way I fought back, gave myself a chance for tomorrow, which was key. Really confident going into tomorrow with the way I fought the last eight holes. Excited about where my game is and ecstatic for tomorrow,” said Woodland despite shooting a one over 71.

Will Tiger Woods Finally Get Major 15?

All eyes will be on Tiger Woods tomorrow at Bellerive, who for the second consecutive major is back in the mix on Sunday. At Carnoustie, he was eight holes away from winning major 15 but blew the lead with two bad holes on the back nine. Now, he has a chance to redeem himself for those mistakes with his first come from behind major championship victory.

“Given I had to play 29 holes today, I played pretty well,” said Tiger after his round. “I just wish I could have got myself a couple more shots closer to the lead, especially with 17 the way it’s playing, they’re moving the tee way up like that. 18’s playing pretty short as well. So I’m sure that I’ll be more than just four back by the end of the day, but there aren’t a lot of guys up there in front of me.”

The 17th hole may be another one of those mental gaffes that could come back to haunt Tiger. With a 10 foot putt for eagle, Tiger three-putted to settle with a par. If he had made birdie, he most likely would have been in the penultimate group tomorrow, instead of the third to last group playing with Gary Woodland.

“I’m a little bit tired,” reveals Woods. “On 17, I rapped it past the hole and missed the putt. I had been leaving every putt short so I thought I should be aggressive. It didn’t pay off.”

With the stakes high tomorrow, Tiger understands that he needs to shoot a perfect round if he is going to claim his 15th major. On a golf course that possesses soft, receptive greens, golfers need to be aggressive because there are birdies out there to be gained.

“The course is soft, it’s gettable and you can’t just go out there and make a bunch of pars,” said Tiger. “You’re going to have to make some birdies.”

For golf pundits and fans alike, time to bring out the popcorn and watch some of the world’s best put on a show at Bellerive for the final time the PGA Championship is Glory’s Last Shot.

 

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