August 14, 2018
US PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka holds off Tiger Woods to win at Bellerive
|100th US PGA Championship final leaderboard|
|-16 B Koepka (US); -14 T Woods (US); -13 A Scott (Aus); -11 S Cink (US), J Rahm (Spa); -10 T Pieters (Bel), F Molinari (Ita), J Thomas (US), G Woodland (US)|
|Selected others: -9 T Hatton (Eng); -8 R Fowler (US); -7 J Rose (Eng), M Wallace (Eng); -5 I Poulter (Eng); -4 T Fleetwood (Eng), R Knox (Sco); -2 R McIlroy (NI)|
American Brooks Koepka won his second major of 2018 by seeing off a resurgent Tiger Woods to claim the US PGA Championship on a compelling final day.
The US Open champion, 28, who led by two shots overnight, shot a four-under 66 to win by two on 16 under par.
Excitement grew at Bellerive as Woods pushed for a first major since 2008, falling short despite a final-day 64.
Koepka holed birdies on the 14th and 15th to keep clear of Woods and Adam Scott (67), who finished on 13 under.
It was 14-time major winner Woods’ lowest final round at either the Masters, US Open, The Open or US PGA.However, his efforts were still not enough as Koepka became the first man since Woods in 2000 to win the US Open and US PGA in the same season.
Koepka, watched by his mother and girlfriend from the side of the 18th green, fought back tears after tapping in a par to set a new 72-hole PGA Championship scoring record of 264.
Spain’s Jon Rahm finished as the leading European player on 11 under after a 68, a shot ahead of Belgium’s Thomas Pieters, who had a double-bogey on the par-five 17th in his 66, and Italy’s Open champion Francesco Molinari, who closed with a 67.
Their performances will have encouraged European captain Thomas Bjorn in the run-up to next month’s Ryder Cup in Paris, along with Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello’s final round of 64 as the Dane contemplates his four wildcard picks, with eight players qualifying automatically.
Tyrrell Hatton was the best-placed British golfer. He played with Cabrera Bello and also signed for a 64 as both players finished on nine under.
‘Patient’ Koepka reaps the rewards
Koepka came into the 100th PGA Championship on the back of a fine season which has seen him claim two other top-five finishes on the PGA Tour along with his US Open victory at Shinnecock Hills.
The world number four had feared his year would be ruined after partially tearing a tendon in his left wrist and then missing the Masters with another wrist injury. But he battled back to fitness and has been rewarded with his third major win in just over a year.
Again, his nerveless demeanour and powerful ball-striking, honed partly by his dedication to the gym, enabled him to hold off several challengers on a high-quality leaderboard.
Koepka remained calm and composed as he held off Englishman Tommy Fleetwood’s final-day charge to retain his US Open title in June – and did the same at Bellerive as Woods, Scott and defending champion Justin Thomas all made moves.
After rounds of 69, 63 and 66 earlier in the week, he moved to 14 under after four birdies and two bogeys in his first nine holes, and then maintained his composure to not drop a shot in a two-under 33 on the back nine.
“For some reason the majors get my attention more,” said Koepka. “Every shot is so important. You have to be patient and I always do that very well in the majors.”
Buoyant Bellerive unable to roar Tiger to victory
Leading from fellow American Gary Woodland going into Sunday’s final round, Koepka started with a birdie on the first to extend his overnight advantage to three shots.
He had only made two bogeys and one double bogey all week but dropped shots at the fourth and fifth saw him move into a share of the lead with Thomas, who had three birdies in his opening seven holes.
A run of three birdies before the turn moved Koepka back into the outright lead but, as Thomas faltered, Woods roared to within a shot with successive birdies on the 12th and 13th.
Loud cheers accompanied every shot hit by 42-year-old former world number one Woods, who was looking to complete what would be regarded as one of sport’s greatest comebacks, 10 years after his last major victory at the 2008 US Open.
Koepka handled the pressure to create a number of birdie opportunities at the start of the back nine, but was unable to take one as Scott moved level with successive birdies on the 12th and 13th.
“At the beginning of the back nine I could hear all the roars, when Tiger made his run and Scotty did,” said Koepka. “It was fun and enjoyable.”
Clearly thriving on the atmosphere, Koepka finally landed a birdie on the 15th to restore his lead and added another from six feet on the 16th to move two clear of Scott with two holes to play.
Woods was still three behind Koepka after wiping out a bogey on the 14th with a birdie on the 15th, but Koepka’s birdies put him into a lead which he never looked like relinquishing.
Pars on the final two holes illustrated Koepka’s steeliness as Scott sprayed his drive right on the 18th before carding a bogey which allowed Woods, who had birdied the last, to take outright second.
Woods ‘thankful’ to be in contention
Woods saw his career – and seemingly-inevitable march past Jack Nicklaus’ record mark of 18 major wins – stall following several years which were hampered by personal issues and a serious back injury.
He did not play a major in 2016 and 2017 and only returned to competitive golf in November last year following fusion surgery to repair his back.
After a brief surge to the top of the leaderboard at last month’s Open, Woods proved once again he can compete in golf’s greatest events with a scintillating final-round performance at Bellerive.
Opening rounds of 70, 66 and 66 meant he started four shots behind Koepka on Sunday, a deficit which the four-time US PGA champion said he knew would be difficult to overcome.
Unable to hit a single fairway on the front nine, Woods still turned in three under and finished the back nine in the same score to earn his highest-placed finish at a major since the 2009 PGA at Hazeltine
“I was in contention at the last two majors and would never have foreseen that a year ago. I’m just so thankful to be here,” said Woods.
“I played hard. It was a bit of a struggle with my game. I was just hanging in there, grinding it out and trying to make as many birdies as possible. I made a little bit of a run and am going to come up a couple of shots short.
“I was always chasing. When I was on the range I could see guys were three under through six holes so I knew I couldn’t sit still. I had to get birdies.
“I didn’t drive well all day – I was hitting it left and right on the driving range, even with my sand wedge – so I knew it was going to be a struggle to piece together a round but I did.”