To retain any title is an achievement.
In golf, it is a rare occurrence that a former champion comes back to defend it successfully.
In a golf major it is not unheard of, but rather the player who does it is usually one of significant dominance.
Legendary figures who had cemented their name in history by doing so are few and far between – Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Padraig Harrington, Tom Watson and now, Brooks Koepka can proudly join this heralded list.
Koepka has now won four majors in his last eight starts within a time frame of just under 24 months.
In doing so, the 29-year-old is once again number one on the Official World Golf Rankings.
He is also the first ever player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors concurrently, winning two US Open and two consecutive PGA Championships – a feat not even Woods or Nicklaus has achieved.
He adds the accolade of becoming the fourth player to score four major titles in the span of eight starts after Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan.
It seemed after the third day that it was pure formality for Koepka to bring home the Wanamaker Trophy. A seven-stroke lead heading into the final day was the highest ever at the PGA Championship. And yet, after four consecutive bogeys on the back nine, his lead shrank to just two.
Fellow Harmon student, Dustin Johnson, was hot on his heels but fell to consecutive bogeys on 16th and 17th to relinquish any chance of lifting his second major trophy.
The final five-foot putt on the 18th hole at Bethpage Black was more relief than relish for Koepka. After all, he was just one or perhaps two shots away from the biggest implosion in golfing history. His score of four-over 74 has somehow still managed to win him the tournament.
“I am just glad we didn’t have to play any more holes. That was a stressful round of golf. The wind was up, DJ was awesome but I’m glad to have this trophy back in my hands. I don’t even know if I dreamed of this. I’m still in shock,” said Koepka after the round.
“Today was definitely the most satisfying out of all of (the major wins) for how stressful that round was,” Koepka said. “I know for a fact that was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life, there on 18.”
Critics singled out Johnson’s inability to add to his single major triumph, given the back nine collapse from the leader.
“With this golf course and this amount of wind, it’s definitely one of the tougher days we’ve played,” said the man who lost his world number one rank to his friend.
“I’m happy with the way I played, I knew it was going to be a big feat to catch Brooks but I definitely gave him a run so I’m happy with that.”
The top six were the only golfers to finish the tournament under par at the resilient course, and according to reports, the wind was up to 35mph on the final day.
Jordan Spieth shared third with Patrick Cantlay and Matt Wallace. This was Spieth’s best finish in a major in his last four starts. Cantlay now has two top-10s in his last two starts and Matt Wallace makes his second only cut at a major and his first top-10 finish.
Luke List shot a 74 for sole sixth and Kang Sung Hoon a stroke behind. Kang has actually made the best out of every major he participated in, making the cut in all six of his appearances. The South Korean just won the AT&T Byron Nelson just the week before.
Harold Varner III, who was in the final flight with Koepka, signed for an 8 to tie for 36th.
“Man, it’s just rough. It was hard. It was really hard,” said Varner, who has one win on his resume. “I just didn’t play well enough. It was a great experience. I’m going to get a lot better. It’s just a hard golf course. I don’t know, I don’t know. It’s good.”
Thailand’s prodigy Jazz Janewattananond faltered to a final day 77, dropping 12 places to finish at a tie for 14th.
That done, it’s on to Pebble Beach next month for the US Open, and Koepka’s caddie Ricky Elliott, is native there.
Game on then.Leave a comment