PGA Championship - Preview Day 3
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Since 1882, only three men have ever won a major championship in three consecutive years. Koepka has a chance to be the fourth.

Since golf’s first championship in 1860, when Willie Park claimed the Open title at Prestwick, two dozen men have won the same major in consecutive years. But since 1882, only three – Peter Thomson, Walter Hagen and Willie Anderson – added a third. Brooks Koepka could join that select group this week at the PGA Championship.

How rare is winning three in a row? The founders of the Open decided the champion’s belt would stay with anyone pulling it off, clearly thinking it would never be done. When Young Tom Morris won in 1868-69-70 there was no Open in 1871 because there was no trophy. That’s how the claret jug came to be in 1872.

The PGA Championship holds a special place in history when it comes to repeat winners. One of golf’s greatest achievements is the four consecutive PGA titles won by Walter Hagen at match play beginning in 1924. No one has equaled that in any major.

The PGA is also the only major in which a player has had a chance at three in a row twice, Tiger Woods winning in 1999-00 and 2006-07.

Koepka, who also won the U.S. Open 2017-18, joins Woods and Hagen as the only men to try for three consecutive in more than one major. Woods also made a bid at the Masters and the Open, while Sir Walter tried for three in a row at the Open.

The roster of those who failed in a bid for a third consecutive major title is impressive, including Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo and Woods. But the best any of them could do was Hogan’s third-place finish at the 1952 U.S. Open.

When Curtis Strange won a second consecutive U.S. Open in 1989, he famously said: “Move over, Ben.” Strange never won another PGA Tour event, proving it’s not wise to taunt the legends of the game.

In addition to the PGA in 1999-00 and 2006-07, Woods won the Open 2005-06 and the Masters 2001-02. But in trying for the three in a row, he failed to crack the top-10 three times and the fourth – the 2008 PGA – he missed because of knee surgery then was runner-up to Y.E. Yang in 2009.

Hagen won the Open in 1927-28 and but didn’t play it in 1929. And after winning the PGA Championship four consecutive times, he was knocked out in the quarterfinals in 1928.

Koepka, who finished second to Gary Woodland by three strokes at Pebble Beach when he tried for the three in a row at the U.S. Open in 2019, said last year at the PGA he likes majors because they are so demanding. And he’s not distracted one bit by all the three-in-a-row talk.

“I don't view it as either one,” Koepka said at TPC Harding Park when asked if the topic was a help or hindrance. “I've already dealt with it at the U.S. Open going into Pebble. I feel like I know how to handle it and I played pretty well there. I just got beat.”

The only other men since 1882 to join Hagen in winning the same major three consecutive times are Thomson in the Open 1954-55-56 and Anderson in the U.S. Open 1903-04-05. Thomson was second at the Open by three strokes to Bobby Locke in 1957 and won again in 1958. Anderson was fifth in his bid for four in a row in 1906.

Hogan won the 1950 U.S. Open just 16 months after a near-fatal car crash and successfully defended the title in 1951. When he tried for the third in 1952, he had a two-stroke lead after opening with a pair of 69s but faded in the brutal heat to finish 74-74 in the 36-hole final day to end up third.

It seems clear that Koepka is ready for the mental heat that will be served up this week in the cool ocean air of Harding Park. And he also feels he’s ready for the physical demands of Harding Park.

“My game feels like it's in really, really good shape right now,” Koepka said. “I like the way I'm hitting it, and feels -- putting it really, really well. Every day is a lot more comfortable. I'm excited. This is a big-boy golf course. Got to hit it straight and put it in the fairway. It's going to be quite long. I think it kind of plays into my hands.”

PGA Championship - Final Round
Brooks Koepka celebrates after holing his winning putt during the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black.
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Like Hagen, Thomson, Anderson and Woods, Koepka saves up his best for when it matters most. Four of his seven PGA Tour wins have come in majors and he’s far from intimidated by the task ahead this week.

“It's fun,” he said about the test presented by the PGA. “I love it. I love the fact that it's probably the toughest test of golf you're going to play all year with -- setup-wise and then mentally it's exhausting. I enjoy when it gets tough. I enjoy when things get complicated. You can really -- there's always disaster lurking, I think it something I enjoy, where every shot really means something.”

Every shot will mean even more than usual in this particular PGA Championship for Koepka. He’s trying for three in a row and only Hagen has done better than that.

Rest assured, if Koepka does end up holding the Wanamaker Trophy come Sunday evening, he likely won’t say, “Move over, Walter.” Having a place in history will be its own reward.

Koepka tees off in Round 1 at 8:11 PT with 2019 major champions Shane Lowry and Gary Woodland. | View Round 1 Tee Times

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