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09th Aug 2020

Brooks Koepka puts PGA Championship leaders on notice with final round comments

Patrick McCarry

Brooks Koepka

The reigning champ fancies his chances.

Dustin Johnson leads the US PGA Championship heading into the final round, but Brooks Koepka is not far off and pace and is talking himself up. Rory McIlroy is out of the running, but still generating plenty of comments and opinions [he is in the firing line again].

Koepka is the reigning US PGA champion having won the Wannamaker trophy in 2018 and again in 2019. He carded a -1 round of 69, on Saturday, to lie on -7 heading into the final round, two back from overnight leader Dustin Johnson.

Johnson had a fine day of it, at TPC Harding Park, and carded a -5 round of 65 that still managed to include a double bogey. The 36-year-old has 24 career wins and was world number one for 64 consecutive weeks, starting in February 2017, but only has a sole Major [2016 US Open] to his name.

A glance at the leaderboard shows Koepka as the only multiple Major winner in the Top 12. Jason Day and Justin Rose (both -6) have won once while the other eight golfers – including Tony Finau, Tommy Fleetwood and Bryson DeChambeau – have yet to clinch a Major.

It was no surprise, then, to see Koepka putting the rest of the field on notice about his title credentials, including his friend Johnson. Asked if getting that second Major was harder than the first, Koepka remarked, “Well, if you look at the top of the leaderboard, I’d say yes.” The four-time Major winner expanded on the point:

“I think expectations [make it difficult]. I guess it does become difficult if you think you’ve played good enough to win multiple ones. But you’ve just got to keep putting yourself there. I’m doing a good job of that. But the second one definitely is a little bit tougher, I think, as you can see from the top of the leaderboard.”

And, if that was not on the nose enough for the likes of Day, Rose and Johnson, the reigning champion returned to the point later in his post-round interview. In 2019, it was Johnson chasing Koepka with the US PGA title at stake, but to little avail. Brooks Koepka commented:

“I mean, I like my chances. When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalised. I don’t know, Dustin’s only won one. I’m playing good. I don’t know, we’ll see.”

Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka pictured together, in 2017, playing a WGC – HSBC Champions event in China. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

Johnson has racked up a rare runner-up slam in all four majors and has been in the mix on the final day on numerous occasions now. Asked what is different now from the other times he has been up with the leading pack in Majors, he commented:

“Well, those, I was definitely younger. I have been out here awhile now. I’ve been in contention a lot, and I’ve got it done a lot of times. Tomorrow, it’s no different. I need to be out… I’m going to have to play good golf if I want to win. It’s simple; I’ve got to hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens. If I can do that tomorrow, I’m going to have a good chance coming down the stretch on the back nine.”

Rory McIlroy, meanwhile, will begin his final round some nine shots back from Johnson after failing to fire on Saturday. McIlroy’s third round card was eventual, to say the least. He got as low as -3 but four bogeys over the closing stretch saw him card a 71 to finish on Evens.

McIlroy has not won a Major since 2014 and his ongoing drought drew some scathing comments on the popular golf podcast ‘No Laying Up’. Phil ‘Randy’ Landes says the Northern Irishman has been the “overall disappointment” of the championship.

“He absolutely stinks! He hasn’t won a Major in six years, guys. Like, at some point, you’ve just got to call is as it is.”

Todd ‘Tron’ Schuster says he is not willing to give up on McIlroy yet but remarked, “I’m so tired of watching him hitting shitty wedges from 120 yards.”

McIlroy will have two more bites at the Major cherry before the year is out, with the US Open and Masters coming up in September and October.

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