Tuesday 18 June 2019

Victory in Korea sends Koepka top of the world

Number one: Brooks Koepka with the trophy after winning the CJ Cup at the Nine Bridges in Jeju, South Korea. Photo: Getty
Number one: Brooks Koepka with the trophy after winning the CJ Cup at the Nine Bridges in Jeju, South Korea. Photo: Getty

James Corrigan

Brooks Koepka at last has the world No 1 status his Major form deserves. The American assumed the role with a victory in yesterday's CJ Cup and declared afterwards that it was "a dream come true".

His eight-under 64 for a 21-under total of 267 and four-shot success was an appropriately dominant way to scale the summit. In truth, however, the rankings caught up with what everyone had accepted - that Koepka is currently the best player on Earth.

With back-to-back US Open victories and his US PGA Championship glory when staring down Tiger Woods two months ago, the 28-year-old had already established himself as the new world power, although it clearly felt wonderful for a man not prone to revealing too many of his emotions.

"To be world No 1 is something I dreamed of as a kid," Koepka said on the 18th green of the Nine Bridges Club on Jeju Island in South Korea. "I don't think this one's going to sink in."

So Koepka assumes the mantle from Dustin Johnson - and, yes, there is more than a little irony in that scenario after the close friends had their contretemps following last month's Ryder Cup defeat - and the manner of this latest triumph suggests he could hold it for some time.

Remarkably, considering his hat-trick of the game's biggest titles, this was only Koepka's fifth PGA Tour title.

Going out in the company of Ian Poulter, who fell away to finish in a tie for 10th after a 71, Koepka held a two-shot lead, yet had to fend off his inspired countryman Gary Woodland, who made 10 birdies in his first 16 holes to pull level. Koepka barely blinked, holing his chip from 70 yards on the 16th before eagling the last for a back-nine 29. It was nerveless and seemingly effortless, and Woodland spoke for the vast majority of onlookers when saying: "You know, Brooks doesn't appear to care that much."

Koepka actually let out a yawn on the final green, but, be sure, the burning ambition is there. "For me, I just need to keep winning," he said. "I feel like to win a few more regular Tour events and then keep adding Majors. I feel like my game's set up for that.


"I've got so much confidence off winning those Majors where - it's incredible - every time I tee it up, I feel like I really have a good chance to win, whether I have my A-game or not. It's something I'm so excited [about] right now, you have no idea. I just can't wait to go play again."

Koepka is the third player this year to reach No 1 for the first time, joining Justin Thomas and Justin Rose. The last time that happened was in 1997, when Ernie Els, Tom Lehman and Tiger Woods rose to the top position.

Meanwhile, Shane Lowry and Gavin Moynihan are in contention for a big finish in the weather-affected Andalucia Masters at Valderrama where local hero Sergio Garcia is the man to catch.

Play will resume this morning with most of the third round and the final round still to play.

Garcia leads by three shots on 10-under after seven holes of his third round played.

Lee Westwood is seven-under after eight holes with Lowry alongside Gonzalo Fernandez-Castono in third spot on six-under par having also played eight holes.

Moynihan made a significant move yesterday and was six-under for the 15 holes he played. That shot him up to four-under and into the top 10.

Andalucia Valderrama Masters,

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