PGA Championship - Round Three
Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It’s almost impossible to rattle Brooks Koepka on a major stage. After all, he’s been here time and time again over the last four years.

Some golfers might let three straight back-nine bogeys on a Saturday at the 2020 PGA Championship derail their round. But not Koepka, who calmly bounced back at TPC Harding Park, birdieing two of his final three holes to finish the day at 7-under-par, two shots back of 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson.

Koepka, who is looking to become the first player to win three straight PGA Championships since Walter Hagen did so from 1924-27, knows the feeling of letting history slip through his fingers. With a chance to win his third consecutive U.S. Open last summer, Koepka was bested by Gary Woodland on Sunday at Pebble Beach, narrowly missing out on golf immortality.

Having finished in the top-four in each of the last five majors, Koepka is confident he can track down Johnson who has only one career major victory on his resume.

“I mean, I like my chances,” Koepka said after his round. “When I’ve been in this position before, I've capitalized. I don't know, he’s only won one. I'm playing good. I don't know, we’ll see.”

Koepka opened the day two shots behind 36-hole leader Haotong Li and went out in 1-under to cut the deficit in half going into the back nine.

PGA Championship - Round Three
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 08: Brooks Koepka of the United States chips to the 13th green as Ricky Elliott looks on during the third round of the 2020 PGA Championship at TPC Harding Park on August 08, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The back nine has been the tougher nine all week and it got the better of Koepka on Saturday. After a birdie at No. 12 to get to 8-under, the four-time major champion dropped shots at 13,14 and 15 to fall back to 5-under.

But doubt is never an issue with Koepka, and he steadied himself quickly on the short Par-4 16th hole. Koepka pulled driver and smoked it 304 yards to the edge of the green. A nifty chip left him four feet for a birdie to get back to 6-under where he started the day.

Koepka parred No. 17 and then took advantage of the gettable 18th hole, sticking his approach shot to six feet to close with a birdie, pushing him to 7-under.

The finishing birdies inched Koepka closer to PGA Championship history. While he’s just two shots back, the two-time defending champion thinks we could see some massive momentum swings on Sunday at TPC Harding Park which should make for high drama by Lake Merced.

“To be honest with you, on this golf course I feel like anywhere from 4-under has a chance,” Koepka said. “I think that's realistic. You can get off to 3-, 4-under very quickly through seven, depending on what they do. If they move the tee up, it could be four or five, and then if you play eight and nine well and birdie 10, I mean, you've got a realistic chance right there. It all depends what the weather does tomorrow, but any of those guys at 4-under I think reasonably have a good chance.”

Starting the final round two shots back of Johnson won’t matter for Koepka, he’s closed at some of the most iconic venues in golf and beaten Johnson in doing so.

The two were paired together in the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black when Koepka began the day with a seven-shot lead. Five straight bogeys on the back nine helped bring Johnson to within one before Koepka sealed the deal to win by two shots to claim his second straight PGA Championship.

It will be a different major feel without fans in attendance, but it is one Koepka is excited for as he vies for golf history.

“Obviously, we don't have fans here, which I think plays a little bit -- makes it a little different when they're hooting and hollering, which it can be fun if they're cheering for you, but if they're against you it's not so much fun,” Koepka said. “It's going to feel completely different than any one we've ever played.  I’m looking forward to it tomorrow.  It should be a fun shootout.”

To the victor goes the Wanamaker.

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