ROCHESTER, NY – Finally Brooks Koepka held the lead entering the final round of a major tournament, shot a 3-over 75 on Sunday at the Masters and tied for second behind the winner. Jon Rahm.
After posting a second straight 4-under 66 in the third round of the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on Saturday, Koepka has a 6-under lead, 1 stroke ahead of the Norwegian. Viktor Hovland and Canada Corey Conners.
So what will Koepka do differently to try to capture his fifth major championship and become the first player from the LIV Golf League to win one?
“I promise I won’t look like that.” [the Masters] tomorrow, “Koepka told CBS after Saturday’s round. “I will not have that idea. It will be completely different and we will see where it takes me.”
Koepka, a two-time winner of the PGA Championship and the US Open, had a 4-shot lead when play resumed in the third round of the late-season Masters in April. He had a 2-stroke lead going into the final round but couldn’t get anything going. Earlier this week, he called it “choking.”
“Learning what I learned at Augusta helped me [Saturday],” Koepka said. “Like I said, I’m not going to do my whole career. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play bad. You can play good, you will play bad but I won’t have that attitude or it won’t be a reason. [he doesn’t win].”
Bad news for Hovland, Conners and the rest of the field? In the four previous seasons when Koepka was the 54-hole leader or another major, he won three times at the US Open and the 2018 PGA Championship in 2018 and 2019 PGA.
Of course, this was before Koepka suffered a painful knee injury that required surgery in 2021. He admitted that the injury was one of the reasons he withdrew from the PGA Tour at LIV Golf in June. He is said to have received 100 million dollars from the financial institutions of Saudi Arabia.
Koepka insists he is a different player.
“I think everyone makes mistakes with injuries,” Koepka said. “You ask any athlete if they get injured, and they can’t do anything. I mean, think if you can’t get out of bed or you can’t walk. You have a stone in your shoe, you’re like Start changing, that’s the thing. I just started bad habits. It’s hard. You can’t play. I came back quickly. and playing for a long time. very happy.”
Koepka’s legendary confidence is back. When a reporter asked how Saturday was going with LIV Golf’s Bryson DeChambeau went, Koepka replied: “I mean, I shot 4-under, so you’re telling me.” DeChambeau, one of Koepka’s rivals on the PGA Tour, posted a par of 70.
There’s no question about it: Big-game Brooks is back.
Having a great time
Michael Block, a club professional from Mission Viejo, California, is not going. He is tied for eighth after posting a third-straight par 70. The last club to be in the top 10 after 54 holes at the PGA Championship was. Bob Boyd at Shoal Creek in Alabama in 1990.
The last successful finish for a PGA club pro who went through the PGA Professional Championship was 11 losses and Lonnie Nielsen in 1986 and Tommy Aycock in 1974.
Block is just three strokes out of fourth place, which would secure him an invitation to the 2024 Masters.
Block opened the third round with a birdie on No. -over 37. Block made a 12 ½-foot birdie putt on No. 11, followed by two 8-footers for birdie on No. 14 and 15.
Block, the senior manager at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, is second in scoring: putting (6.236) through threes and is second in driving efficiency (27 of 42 fairways).
“He’s obviously a great player and he’s played a few of these, so I’m sure he’s getting better and playing better,” he said. Patrick Kantlay, who plays with Block several times a year. “It’s fun to watch. He’s tough, he hits very straight, and in golf like this where you have to play from the fairway, that’s a big plus.”
Block said he didn’t look at his teammate, Justin Rosefor three holes because he has been in love with her for a long time.
“I didn’t look at Rosey’s face the first three holes,” Block said. “I’m a big fan of Rosey and I’ve been watching him my whole life, and I knew it was going to be really scary, that, shit, I’m sitting here playing with Justin Rose, and it’s going to be scary. I was like, I looked down, I looked at his shoes the first two holes, and I got off to a good start and kept going from there.”
Block also knows who is ahead of him going into the final round.
“I like Rosey but I can compete with these guys, to be honest,” Block said. “I can compete. I can hang. I can post 3- or 4-under tomorrow, especially if I get the fairways back.”
Block even has other female PGA Tour players pulling for him this week. There is this tweet from Adam Hadwin’s wife:
Watching Michael Block play makes me so happy . No offense @ahadwingolf
— Jessica Hadwin (@jessicahadwin) May 20, 2023
And this one from Adam Schenk:
I love him!!
– Kourtney Schenk (@Kourtney_Schenk) May 20, 2023
McIlroy is in the hunt
After posting a 1-over 71 in the first round, Rory McIlroy he was not happy with his appearance and did not feel very well. He posted 1-under 69 on Friday and Saturday, however, and is back in the hunt for 1 under after 54 holes, five shots behind the leader.
After hitting seven of a combined 28 fairways in the first two rounds, McIlroy hit six of 14 in the third. He also needed 25 putts on Saturday, five fewer than in the opening round.
“I think my mind has been better,” McIlroy said. “My ability is just staying there and showing a little bit of determination and not letting the rounds get away from me too much. Obviously I would have liked to be a few shots closer to the lead, but that’s how I did it. I heard this week, if you had told me on Thursday night that I would go into Sunday in ‘top five and with the chance to win this golf tournament, I would do it.’
What will it take from McIlroy on Sunday to win? Maybe 5-under 65.
“I hope so,” McIlroy said. “If I look [Saturday], I made enough birdies to shoot goals like that. I just needed to save the mistakes on the card. I have to remain optimistic. I have to believe that there are goals like this because looking at the scoreboard, it’s probably a goal that I have to shoot something to have a chance to win. “
The sixth patient
The par-4, 503-yard sixth hole has been the toughest of the week so far. Through the third round, the average score on the right dogleg hole is 4.564. There have been only 21 birdies and 178 pars, 143 bogeys, 41 double bogeys and five others.
Scottie Scheffler he called it “the hardest hole I’ve ever played.”
On Friday, the sixth hole played to an average of 4.75. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, there were 90 holes on the PGA Tour this season that played lower than 4.75. On Friday, it was the most difficult hole in one tournament in the past 30 years at the PGA Championship.
The sixth hole requires a shot through a small ridge between the trees, with a river and hazard to the right (where Tom Kim went to take a mud bath) and two fairway rooms on the left. It requires a fairway shot over the river and onto the green which is protected by bunkers on the right and the river on the back left. Players hit the green in regulation only 34.8% of the time this week.
“It’s difficult,” Chile’s Mito Perreira said. “It’s 500 yards into the wind, right on the water. If you hit it hard, you’re going to bounce. Water around the green. I mean, it’s really hard.”
New York laughs
DeChambeau and Koepka were booed by New York fans on the first tee Saturday. They seemed to warm to Koepka at the end of the round.
“Look, it’s New York, and I hope here, thanks to the fans, they do this for me,” DeChambeau said. “It’s like, okay, okay, no problem. I don’t have a problem, either way. If we have applause, it’s fun and if not, you know what, whatever, that’s what it is. It was fun today.”
A double bogey on the sixth hole caused DeChambeau to lose first place. After posting a bogey on the par-5 13th, he had back-to-back birdies on No. 14 and 15 to get back even in the round. He is 3 under after 54 holes, 3 strokes behind Koepka.
The sixth hole has been a tough one for DeChambeau, who is 3 over the hole and 6 under through the rest of the 17th this week. He birdied the sixth on the first par but missed the second and third.
“I felt like I hit a few shots out there even though the 6 got me back,” DeChambeau said. “I didn’t play the hole well, I hit it a little bit and the wind picked it up and just went in the water today. Drive it well on that hole and continue to drive it well tomorrow on the rest of the golf course. , I’m just going to hit my irons a little bit better.”
The Mickelson event
Phil Mickelson became the oldest man to win a major when he captured his sixth major at the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, at the age of 50.
This week, Mickelson became the fourth player in history to surpass 100 in a major tournament, joining Jack Nicklaus (131), Gary Player (102) is Tom Watson (100). Tiger Woodsin case you were wondering, he made 77 of the 91 cuts in the majors.
Mickelson, 52, told Sky Sports on Saturday that he had no idea what happened. He joked that it “shows my age.”
Mickelson said: “This first cut has been fun. “I think the second 100 will be a lot more fun.”
🗣️ “The first 100 saws have been fun. The second 100 will be even more fun.”
Phil Mickelson took action after reaching 100 cuts in Major Championships. pic.twitter.com/whNAHmgHC2
– Sky Sports Golf (@SkySportsGolf) May 20, 2023