Brooks Koepka moments after winning the PGA Championship on Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.
Brooks Koepka lost his 54-hole lead at the Masters. He didn’t plan on doing it again on Sunday.
Koepka, the four-time major champ who’s long played his best in the sport’s biggest events, couldn’t hang on to win at Augusta National last month, falling to Jon Rahm’s comeback victory. On Saturday night at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., Koepka vowed whatever happened when he slept on that lead that night in Georgia wouldn’t take place again.
“What I learned at Augusta kind of helped today,” he said. “Like I said, I won’t do it again the rest of my career. … I’ll never have that mindset or that won’t ever be the reason.”
He declined to elaborate on what exactly that mindset was. All we know is his plan worked.
Golf’s most dominant major player of the past decade returned on Sunday, shooting a three-under 67 to win the PGA Championship and claim his fifth major title. It’s Koepka’s third PGA title (he also has two U.S. Opens), and he’s now one of 20 players to win at least five majors in a career.
Kopeka’s nine-under total bested World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler (65) and Viktor Hovland (68), Koepka’s playing partner, by two.
The 33-year-old Koepka, who joined LIV Golf last year and is now the first LIV player to lift a major trophy, opened the day six under, one ahead of Hovland and Corey Conners and three up on Bryson DeChambeau, but he still had some of the game’s biggest names — like Scheffler (four back) and Rory McIlroy (five back) — lurking.
No lead seemed safe, either. Remember last year? Justin Thomas came from seven back on Sunday to win his second PGA Championship.
But Kopeka rarely flinched. Early in his round, he went from a big betting favorite to an apparent sure thing, making birdies on Nos. 2-4 to extend his lead to three at one point.
The rest of the contenders started slowly, and Hovland did too with three straight pars, but he eventually found his rhythm with birdies at 4 and 5.
Koepka’s first blemish came at 6, when he cut a drive into a penalty area. He did well to make bogey from there, but Hovland got up and down from the bunker and sank a clutch eight-footer for par to cut the lead to one.
Koepka made his second straight bogey on the 7th when he failed to get up and down around the green, but Hovland didn’t pick up any ground. He drove it in the thick stuff, was forced to whack it out to wedge range and couldn’t save his par.
After two straight pars, Koepka led at seven under at the turn, Hovland was six under and Scheffler and DeChambeau were both four under.
A birdie on 10 gave Koepka his two-stroke lead once more, but up ahead Scheffler was heating up. The 2022 Masters champion opened his round with six straight pars, but he made four birdies in a seven-hole stretch from Nos. 7-13. But Koepka responded. Coming off a bogey on 11, Koepka birdied 12 when he rolled in an 11-footer.
The lead, again, was two over Hovland and three over Scheffler, with six holes remaining for the final pairing and five for Scheffler. Suddenly, it seemed like a three-horse race — and it was about to get even tighter.
On the par-5 13th — the only par-5 on the back nine — Hovland made birdie, while Scheffler birdied 14 for his second straight. Koepka, who made a 10-footer to save par (one of his key moments of the day), led Hovland by one and Scheffler by two. The next closest competitors were five off the pace.
Koepka and Hovland traded birdies on 14 and pars on 15, but the 16th was the final dagger.
Hovland’s drive landed in a fairway bunker and his second shot embedded in the lip of it — exactly what happened to Conners on Saturday, in almost the exact same spot — and led to a disastrous double bogey. Koepka? He made birdie.
Koepka stepped to the 17th tee leading by four. Or, as on-course reporter Dottie Pepper framed it, “About 1,000 yards to the Wanamaker.”
Scheffler birdied 18 and Koepka bogeyed 17, so the lead was two with one to play, but an easy two-putt par sealed it.
Koepka’s latest Wanamaker Trophy joins the others he won in 2018 and ’19, and his U.S. Open trophies from 2017 and ’18.
He never finished better than 55th in last year’s majors and missed the cut in two of them, but he recently unveiled just how much he was struggling with his knee, his confidence and his swing. A runner-up finish at the Masters suggested the old Koepka was back.
Sunday at the PGA Championship confirmed it.
Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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