PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) — All the injuries that made Brooks Koepka wonder if he was still among golf’s elite were put to rest Sunday at Oak Hill when he beat the strongest field of the year to win the PGA Championship for his fifth major title.
Determined as ever to restore his reputation as the player to beat in the majors, Koepka ran off three quick birdies early, never lost the lead in a fierce fight from Viktor Hovland and closed with a 3-over 67 and a two-shot victory.
He won his third Wanamaker Trophy; only Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen with five and Tiger Woods with four have won the PGA Championship more times, and captured his first major in four years.
And to think that for 18 months, Koepka was so injured he felt he couldn’t compete, a decision that could have led to him leaving the PGA Tour for Saudi Arabia-funded LIV Golf after the US Open last June. then with a shocking move.
In the Netflix series “Full Swing,” which began earlier this year, she said her confidence has been questioned. “I’ll be honest with you, I can’t compete with these guys week in and week out.”
Wish him good health and a clear head, and good luck knocking Koepka off in the majors.
He has now won five of his last 22 majors, a feat surpassed only by Woods, Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Nick Faldo and Ben Hogan in the past 75 years.
Koepka is in pretty fierce company where he looks. His five majors are the same as Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson. Only Woods (15) and Phil Mickelson (6) have more among active players.
“I’m not even sure I ever dreamed I’d win that much,” he said.
Koepka looked as powerful as ever and left little doubt about his place in the match with a two-shot victory over a hapless Hovland (68) and Scotty Scheffler, who closed with a 65 to return to the no. 1 in the world.
“To look back at where we were two years ago, I’m very happy right now,” Koepka said. “This is the most amazing thing.”
The win moves Koepka to the no. 13 in the world and no. 2nd place in the Ryder Cup tournament. The top six automatically qualify, and it would be hard to fathom Koepka leaving the American team. He can only score early in the majors, with two more to come.
Koepka had to share the biggest cheer with California club pro Michael Block, who put on a great show over four days. Block birdied Rory McIlroy for a hole-in-one on the 15th and then made two tough pars at the end for his fourth straight 70.
He tied for 15th, giving him a return date at next year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla. It was the best tally by a club professional since Lonnie Nielsen equaled 11 at Inverness in 1986.
“The most surreal moment I’ve ever had in my life,” Block said. “I’m living the dream and I’m sure enjoying the moment. You don’t get better than this, there’s no hell.”
Block charges $125 per class at Arroyo Trabuco in Mission Viejo, CA. He earned just $290,000 at Oak Hill.
For Koepka, his fifth major might have been the sweetest, given his injury-plagued study of a pedestrian game and decision to join LIV Golf, where he won two of 54 holes.
A month ago at the Masters, Koepka blew a two-shot lead in the final round to tee off and beat John Rahm. He swore he wouldn’t do it again, and Koepka delivered in the same basic way as before.
Hovland made it easy for him at the end. Koepka was one shot ahead at the 16th hole when Hovland hit his 9-hole bunker shot into the lip in front of him, the same shot that stopped Corey Conners on Saturday, for double bogey.
Koepka chipped from the rough to 5 feet for birdie and suddenly took a four-shot lead when Hovland double-bogeyed.
Scheffler trailed four batters and never got closer than two. His 65 matched the tournament-best score posted by four other players on the day, which was set to score points.
Koepka captured it by chipping the wedge to 4 feet on the second and third holes, and rolling an 8-foot birdie putt down the hill at the par-5 par four.
But he drove into the water on the sixth hole and did well to make bogey, and a rough bogey on the seventh cut his tie to Hovland to one shot.
Hovland again pulled one shot back with a 10-foot birdie at the 13th. Koepka responded with a driver he chipped off a steep bunker to par on the 14th and after they parred on the par-3 15th.
Hovland hit a 9-iron from a bunker on the 16th, and could hear it hit the fairway into the grass at the edge of the sand. He immediately knew what had happened, closed his mouth with a closed fist. It took two more to reach the green after falling into a foul foul.
“Brooks is a great player and now he has five head coaches. I mean, that’s one hell of a record right there. It’s not easy to go toe-to-toe with such a guy,” said Hovland. “He’s not going to give you anything, and I didn’t really feel like I gave him anything until I was 16.”
Bryson DeChambeau, who opened the PGA with a 66, made too many mistakes in his round of 70.
LIV had three players in the top 10 for the second consecutive major.
Koepka, who finished 9-under 271, took home $3.15 million and the heaviest trophy of the four majors. There was nothing more valuable than that.
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