Tuesday 25 June 2019

Brooks Koepka clings on for PGA Championship victory as Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry seal top ten finishes

FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK - MAY 19: Brooks Koepka of the United States reacts to his putt on the 18th green during the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 19, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK - MAY 19: Brooks Koepka of the United States reacts to his putt on the 18th green during the final round of the 2019 PGA Championship at the Bethpage Black course on May 19, 2019 in Farmingdale, New York. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Phil Casey

Brooks Koepka survived an unexpectedly nerve-racking final round to defend his US PGA Championship title and claim a remarkable fourth major victory in his last eight starts.

Koepka had followed a course record of 63 on Thursday with a second round of 65 to set the lowest halfway total in major championship history and took a tournament-record seven-shot lead into the last day at a blustery Bethpage.

No player has ever surrendered such a lead in a major after 54 holes and the 29-year-old remained six clear with eight to play, but bogeyed the next four holes to allow good friend Dustin Johnson to close within a single shot.

However, with the raucous New York crowd now chanting his name, Johnson dropped shots on the 16th and 17th to give Koepka the breathing space he so desperately needed.

To his credit, Koepka vitally found the fairway on both the difficult 15th and 16th holes and had the luxury of dropping a shot on the 17th before completing a closing 74 to finish eight under, two shots ahead of Johnson.

England's Matt Wallace was four shots further back in a share of third place with Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay, with Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry among a tie for eighth on one over.

Koepka will replace Johnson as world number one on Monday and with the US PGA moving from August to May this year, he is the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time following his US Open wins in 2017 and 2018.

Birdies on the fourth, sixth and ninth had taken Johnson to the turn in 32 and reduced the gap to four, Koepka having made a poor start with a bogey on the first before reducing the par-five fourth to a drive and an eight-iron to set up a two-putt birdie.

With Johnson about to drop a shot on the 11th, Koepka struck what looked to be the killer blow with a stunning approach to the 10th to set up a tap-in birdie and restore a six-stroke cushion, although he had to hole from six feet on the next to avoid a double bogey.

Another bogey on the 12th saw the lead trimmed to four shots again and Koepka was fortunate to get away with a wild drive on the 13th which finished on a trampled down patch of grass where the spectators had been walking.

However, he failed to find the fairway with his recovery and came up short of the green with his third shot before three-putting from long range.

A third straight bogey meant his lead was down to three and minutes later it was just two as Johnson holed from 11 feet for birdie on the 15th.

Koepka's mind was scrambled by this point and his tee shot on the 14th flew fully 15 yards over the green as a combination of adrenaline and a possible drop in the wind struck at the most inopportune moment.

With a fourth bogey in a row Koepka's lead was down to a single shot but he got the help he needed when Johnson was unable to save par from over the 16th green and another bogey on the 17th effectively ended his chances.

After finishing runner-up in the Masters last month, Johnson has now finished second in all four majors with his sole success coming in the 2016 US Open.

Speaking at the trophy presentation, Koepka said: "I'm just glad we didn't have to play any more holes, that was a stressful round of golf.

"The wind was up, DJ (Johnson) played awesome and he put the pressure on. I'm glad to have this thing (the Wanamaker Trophy) back in my hands.

"It's incredible. I don't even know if I dreamed of this. This is cool. I am still in shock right now, this is awesome."

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy declared he was proud of his performance after ending the US PGA Championship on a positive note at Bethpage.

McIlroy was heading for an early exit after dropping five shots in the first three holes of his second round to slump to seven over par, but fought back to make the cut with a shot to spare.

The 30-year-old then carded back-to-back rounds of 69 over the weekend to close in on a top-10 finish.

"I just need to play the first 27 holes better," McIlroy said. "I played the last 45 in six under par, which was good on a tough course on a tough weekend. It's really tough out there today, but I tried to the very end.

"I could have let my head go down in the middle of that second round and be home in Florida right now, but I wanted to be here for the weekend and I'm glad I could make the most of the opportunity I had to play the extra couple of days.

"Today it's so tough out there, I've moved up the leaderboard quite a lot, and my goal at the start of the day was to get into the top 10.

"It's a 72-hole golf tournament and you've got to try till the very end and I did that this week. You know, it wasn't good enough to be up there in contention, but I made improvements each and every day, which is a good thing."

Irishman Shane Lowry also had a productive Sunday, as a third successive round in the 60s allowed him to secure a top ten finish and a pay cheque of around $266,000.

Press Association

The Throw-In: Why Kerry are not top contenders to challenge Dublin in All-Ireland race

In association with Bord Gáis Energy

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport