PGA Championship 2018

Koepka a different beast during majors

Brooks Koepka kissing the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2018 PGA Championship on Sunday. He is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win the US Open and PGA Championship in the same year.
Brooks Koepka kissing the Wanamaker Trophy after winning the 2018 PGA Championship on Sunday. He is the first player since Tiger Woods in 2000 to win the US Open and PGA Championship in the same year.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

American able to switch it on when it matters most; Woods hails him as a 'big-time player'

ST LOUIS • Brooks Koepka is one of the longest hitters in golf but, most weeks, he is a distracted driver, with his focus fading in and out like a radio signal on a tree-lined mountain road.

But four weeks a year, during the Majors, he has no problem locking in his concentration.

"I can really tune in in the Majors, and I have no idea why," said Koepka, who has won three of them and only one regular PGA Tour event. "When I show up at the Majors, I'm very focused. They really get my attention."

On Sunday, at the 100th PGA Championship, the 28-year-old could easily have lost his focus.

He was being chased by the two players he had idolised growing up: Tiger Woods, 42, and Adam Scott, the 38-year-old Australian.

A hard-charging Woods had the vocal support of the fans crammed into Bellerive Country Club.

Scott, whose swing Koepka loved as a child, joined him in the final twosome, duelling the American down the stretch as if paying homage to the PGA Championship's earlier incarnation as a match-play event. "Surreal, that's all I can say," said Koepka.

  • FINAL LEADERBOARD

  • (selected, USA unless stated)

  • 264 Brooks Koepka 69 63 66 66

    266 Tiger Woods 70 66 66 64

    267 Adam Scott (Aus) 70 65 65 67

    269 Stewart Cink 67 69 66 67, Jon Rahm (Esp) 68 67 66 68

    270 Thomas Pieters (Bel) 67 66 71 66, Francesco Molinaro (Ita) 68 67 68 67, Justin Thomas 69 65 68 68, Gary Woodland 64 66 71 69

    271 Rafa Cabrera Bello (Esp) 70 68 69 64

    272 Jordan Spieth 71 66 69 66, Rickie Fowler 65 67 69 71

    273 Justin Rose (Gbr) 67 69 69 68, Webb Simpson 68 68 68 69, Jason Day (Aus) 67 68 67 71, Julian Suri 69 66 68 70

    274 Dustin Johnson 67 66 72 69

    276 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 68 69 73 66

He never wavered, closing with a four-under 66 to win his second Major of the year and his third in 14 months. The two-time reigning US Open champion finished two strokes ahead of Woods, whose six-under 64 not only equalled the low round of the day but was also his lowest finishing round in 80 Major starts, and three ahead of Scott, who shot a 67.

Woods made eight birdies and two bogeys, despite hitting just five of 14 fairways. He made up for it with laser-like iron shots like the one he hit to kick-in distance at the par-four 15th, and a tidy 23 putts.

Koepka may have entertained a few doubts, but he never got sidetracked.

On the first, eighth and 12th holes, he stepped up and sank birdie putts as thunderous roars shook the course after electrical birdie strikes by Woods, the 14-time Major winner playing one hole ahead of Koepka and Scott.

Koepka, the first player since Woods in 2000 to win the US Open and PGA Championship in the same year, has also had to overcome a setback ahead of his triumphant run.

At the end of last year, he suffered a wrist injury that kept him out of several tournaments, including the Masters in April.

"To think where I was four months ago, to come out here and play as well as I did, it's really incredible," he said. "I can't even put into words how well I played."

His vanquished rivals were similarly impressed. "When a guy hits it 340 (yards) down the middle and, as good a putter as he is, it's tough to beat," Woods said of Koepka.

"What has been interesting to watch is how much of a big-time player he is. He's showing up at the right moments in the biggest events. He's got that mindset.

"There's something inside his brain that makes him believe that's what he's destined to do."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NY TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2018, with the headline 'Koepka a different beast during majors'. Print Edition | Subscribe