Koepka King Again, Captures Third PGA Championship, 5th Career Major
Brooks Koepka held a one-shot lead over Viktor Hovland while standing on the tee at the par-4 16th hole late Sunday at the PGA Championship. Koepka had built an early three-shot lead, but Hovland continued to chip away and, with three holes remaining, was as close as he’s ever been to capturing his first major championship.
Twenty minutes later Koepka was leading by four. Thirty minutes later Koepka was holding the Wanamaker Trophy for the third time in the last six years.
It all unfolded that quickly at venerable Oak Hill.
On the 16th, Hovland hit his approach shot from the bunker into the thick, gnarly rough just guarding that same bunker, had to take a drop because the ball was embedded and ultimately made a double-bogey 6. Koepka, seizing the moment, hit his approach to 5-feet and made birdie to produce a three-shot swing.
Koepka shot 72-66-66-67 for a 9-under-par 271 total. Hovland (68) and Scottie Scheffler (65) tied for second place, two shots behind.
“This is incredible,” Koepka said afterward while holding the Wanamaker Trophy. “This is just the coolest thing.”
It was already rarified air for Koepka, having entered this week with four major championship titles and being frustrated because of a close call at the Masters last month where he ultimately tied for second place after shooting a final-round 75. Now he’s joined a list with Walter Hagen (5), Jack Nicklaus (5), Tiger Woods (4), Gene Sarazen (3) and Sam Snead (3) as the only men to win at least three PGA titles.
“I’m not sure I even dreamed of it as a kid, that I was going to win this many,” Koepka said about winning his fifth major, joining only 19 other men in accomplishing that feat. “This is the coolest thing. I’m just happy to do it in front of these New York fans. I love you guys.”
Koepka, 33, started Sunday with birdies on the second, third and fourth holes but backed up with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 7 and held a one-shot lead standing on the 10th tee. He promptly birdied the 10th hole, but bogeyed the 11th and responded with birdies at 12 and 14 before the dagger came on the 16th against Hovland’s double bogey.
Hovland, 25, had finished inside the top seven in each of the previous two majors and was looking to add one to his tally. He played beautifully for 15 holes, making four birdies against a lone bogey before his undoing came in the right fairway bunker with three holes remaining.
“I thought I handled myself pretty well today,” Hovland said. “Pretty unfortunate on 16. But I still didn’t feel like I gave it away. Brooks played awesome golf today, he made a lot of putts and hit a lot of great shots and he deserved to win.”
Scheffler quietly plodded away ahead and made five birdies in an eight-hole stretch in the middle of his round. He closed with a birdie from 16 feet on the 18th hole to sneak into a second-place tie. A third-round 73, and Koepka, of course, was what kept Scheffler from contending more closely for his second major championship. He did, however, move back to No. 1 in the world. Former World No. 1, Jon Rahm, tied for 50th place.
The other major story of the day was PGA Professional Michael Block, the Head Professional at Arroyo Trabuco in Mission Viejo, Calif., who captured the hearts of New York and most of the golf world. He made the cut for the first time, he played with Justin Rose on Saturday, then, on Sunday, while paired with Rory McIlroy, Block dunked an ace on the 151-yard 15th hole that sent the gallery into a frenzy.
Then on the final hole, Block, 46, made an 8-footer to save par which put him into a tie for 15th place. The top-15 players and ties earn a trip to next year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla in Kentucky. It was also the best finish for a PGA Professional since Lonnie Nielsen tied for 11th place at Inverness Club in 1986.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet to be honest,” Block said.
Brooks Koepka agrees.