Two-time PGA Champion Brooks Koepka, let down by putter, ties for second at Kiawah
Through 54 holes of the 103rd PGA Championship, two-time PGA Champion Brooks Koepka trailed leader Phil Mickelson by two strokes at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course.
After 55 holes, Koepka had a one-shot advantage when his birdie against Mickelson’s bogey at the first hole in the final round led to a two-shot swing.
Right there, it seemed as though the romantic story of a 50-year-old Phil Mickelson becoming the oldest major winner in history was out the window with Koepka ready to capture his third PGA Championship victory in four years.
But not so fast.
If you thought a two-shot swing was something, there was a three-shot swing at the second hole. Mickelson regained the lead by one with a birdie on the par-5 when Koepka made a double bogey.
The two were even at 6 under when Mickelson made a bogey to Koepka’s birdie on No. 6. At No. 7, there was yet another two-shot swing, this time in Mickelson’s favor. Koepka made bogey to drop to 5 under, while Mickelson made birdie to get to 7 under and never looked back.
Koepka tried for a late rally on the back nine with birdies at 15 and 16, but it was too little, too late.
As had been the case all week, the putter let Koepka down Sunday.
Of the 81 players who made the cut, Koepka finished 42nd in strokes gained putting, something he had a hard time stomaching as he would tie for second with Louis Oosthuizen.
“Just how bad I putted the last two days,” said Koepka, who now has 14 top-10 finishes in 28 major starts, following his 2-over 74. “Three days, actually. It felt like tap-ins I was missing. Never felt comfortable, and you're not going to win if you do that. The thing was, Phil played great. That whole stretch when we turned after 4 and 5 and played those holes, it's into off the left for me and that's quite difficult for a right-handed player. And it suited Phil right down to the ground, and I thought he played that entire stretch from about 6 to 13 so well. So, you know, I'm happy for him, Amy and Tim. It's pretty cool to see, and you know, but a bit disappointed in myself.”
Sunday marked the third time Koepka finished runner-up in a major. He also finished second in 2019 when Tiger Woods won the Masters.
At least for now, Koepka isn’t taking any solace in finishing second. The 31-year-old, four-time major winner plays to win.
“Right now, I'm super disappointed, pretty bummed,” he said. “I'm not happy. I don't know if there's a right word I can say on here without getting fined, but it hurts a little bit. It's one of those things where I just never felt comfortable over the putts. I don't know why, what happened. You know, I spent all weekend, the weekend before working on it and it was great, and you know, just overdid it. I was trying to get my hands a little lower and ended up getting my hands too far low one under and actually ended up getting further away from the ball. The last nine, I just tried to go back to what I've always done, and I felt like I was hitting better putts. I just wish I would have done it sooner.”
Koepka has battled hip and knee injuries the last couple of years and is still rehabbing from a knee surgery on March 16.
He said the knee felt great until the scene that unfolded on No. 18 with fans storming the fairway to walk up behind Mickelson and Koepka as the Championship concluded.
Koepka and caddie Ricky Elliott got lost in the crowd and it wasn’t a comfortable few moments for Koepka, as he felt his knee get knocked into by a spectator.
“The knee was not an issue,” he said. “I was able to push off of it and I didn't have one shot this week where I felt like I couldn't push off it. It definitely felt like the strongest it's been, probably up till the last. I don't know what somebody was trying to do but if that didn't happen, yes, I would say it actually felt really good to be honest.”
Koepka said he would take the next few weeks to rest and continue rehabbing before returning for the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June.