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Brooks Koepka

Koepka tops stellar leaderboard as PGA Championship bounces back

Brooks Koepka is two clear, but there is a plethora of world class talent in the hunt at Bellerive. And how the PGA Championship needed it, writes Keel Timmins

 

What happened on Saturday at the PGA Championship?

Brooks Koepka will look to become only the fifth player in history to win both the US Open and the PGA Championship in the same year as he takes a two-shot lead into the final round at Bellerive Country Club.

Koepka – who won at Shinnecock Hills two months ago – had the ball on a string on the front-nine where he opened with two straight birdies and went on to pick up three more shots to go out in a blistering 30.

At one point the 28-year-old had a four-shot lead, but the closing stretch of holes tripped the American up. The first mistake came at the 14th; a pulled drive resulted in a bunkered approach shot, where he failed to get up-and-down for par. And then came the 15th; his drive came up to rest directly behind a tree where a penalty drop was the only option. All things considered, he did incredibly well to make bogey.

A birdie at the 17th got Koepka back on track and he’ll have a superb opportunity to win his third major championship on Sunday. If he does so, it means he would have won three of the last six major championships.

In the unlikely scenario that Koepka can’t handle the occasion – remember, this is a player that has shown almost no emotion after winning both of his US Open titles – big names are within reach and more than capable of pouncing.

Tiger Woods struck the ball beautifully and he’ll perhaps be feeling a little hard done by with a second successive 66. A front-nine 31 was followed by a crushing birdie-free back-nine where he couldn’t get a putt to drop. At the par-5 17th, Woods was pin-high in two and three-putted for par. At 8-under-par, he’s alongside both Justin Thomas and Jason Day.

But Koepka’s closest competitor is Adam Scott, the former Masters champion whose last tour win came more than two years ago. Since that last win at the WGC-Cadillac, the Aussie has dropped to 76th in the world rankings and is only playing this week after a special exemption from the PGA of America. But seemingly out of nowhere, he’s found his form and sits just two shots behind the leader.

At 9-under, Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler are both main contenders for the best current player without a major, and they will have a fine chance of getting off the mark this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came from the world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who was widely expected to be one of the main contenders after he opened with two solid rounds to sit just a few shots back after 36 holes.

While his good friend Koepka surged ahead, Johnson went in reverse and ended up two-over for the day. It’s all the more surprising given his form in the last two weeks.

Full PGA Championship leaderboard

Talking point

The course is too easy. It isn’t a major championship setup. Why are we playing in Missouri in the height of summer? Some of you might not even be able to watch the coverage on TV.

Yep – it’s fair to say that this week’s PGA Championship has had its criticisms.

But look at the bigger picture here. The leaderboard is absolutely stacked with talent and we could have a stunning finale with Koepka, Tiger, Thomas, Rahm and Fowler all in the running to take home the Wanamaker Trophy.

And the crowds that St Louis is producing have been incredible. Just look at the scenes when Tiger drained one of his many putts on the front-nine on Saturday, or even the reaction to Matt ‘Mike’ Wallace’s ace.

Next year, the tournament will be moved to May and becomes the second major of the calendar year. It will be a new era of the PGA Championship; perhaps we’ll even have some decent TV coverage.

But in the meantime, enjoy the final round of the 100th PGA Championship. This is a tournament that has produced tremendous drama over the years, and it looks likely we’re set for even more tomorrow.

Best quote

Brooks Koepka:

Best moments

Betting update

South Africans have a great record here at Bellerive, and Charl Schwartzel is the best placed through 54 holes and certainly has a chance if he can shoot a low number.

The former Masters champion fired a final round 63 at Firestone last week, and he then hit another 63 on Friday.

He’s always been capable of getting hot on the course, and at around 45/1, he offers good each-way value.

Eddie Pepperell stormed through the field in the final round of The Open last time out to finish sixth. At five-under-par, he’s in a pretty similar position here at Bellerive.

Obviously a win might be too much to ask, but at 600/1, he could be worth an each-way bet in the hope that he can post a low number and sneak a top-three finish.

Tom Irwin

Tom Irwin

Tom is a lifetime golfer, now over 30 years playing the game. 2023 marks 10 years in golf publishing and he is still holding down a + handicap at Alwoodley in Leeds. He has played over 600 golf courses, and has been a member of at least four including his first love Louth, in Lincolnshire. Tom likes unbranded clothing, natural fibres, and pencil bags. Seacroft in Lincolnshire is where it starts and ends.

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