Brooks Koepka avoids near-disaster (and Dustin Johnson’s surge) to win 2019 PGA Championship
It’s Kopeka’s fourth major victory and unprecedented third in his last five majors starts. And all four of them — the last two U.S. Opens and last two PGA Championships — have come in his last eight major appearances. Koepka shot a four-over 74 to finish eight under overall, two ahead of Johns0n, who shot 69.
“It’s incredible,” Koepka said. “I don’t think I even thought I was going to do it that fast. I don’t think anybody did, and to be standing here today with four majors, it’s mind-blowing.”
Koepka entered the final round with a seven-shot lead after separating himself from the field with a course-record 63 on Thursday, but Sunday’s finale at big and brawny Bethpage Black went from a coronation to a near collapse in the matter of hours.
Johnson went out two groups ahead of Koepka and shot three under on the front, but Koepka put together the front nine he needed to stay ahead, making one birdie and one bogey to turn in even par. After a birdie on 10 his lead was six with eight to play. All was well. Until it wasn’t.
Koepka drove it into the bunker on the par-4 11th and made bogey — the first of four straight that turned the tournament on its head.
Another missed fairway on 12 led to a hack out of the thick rough and a bogey. On 13 he went way left and was forced to hit through an alleyway of spectators, but later lipped out for par from six feet. And on the par-3 14th his tee shot went well over the green — leading to the boisterous New York crowds to chant “D-J! D-J! D-J!” — and resulted in another bogey. Koepka dropped down to nine under, and Johnson’s fourth straight birdie of the week on the difficult par-4 15th moved him to eight under and made the lead just one.
Johnson, however, couldn’t bring it into the clubhouse. He missed the green on 16 and 17 and failed to get up and down for par both times. After scrambling for par on 18, he took the clubhouse lead at six under.
Koepka, meanwhile, still made it interesting. After a par on 16 he three-putted the 17th — missing his par putt from inside three feet — and stood on the par-4 18th tee with a two-shot lead. His drive went left again and landed in the native area and he was forced to pitch out into the fairway, but he found the green and saved par to win by two.
“On 18 tee, I never once thought about anything but driver,” he said. “It’s one of those holes where it’s pumping 25 [mph] into you. If you hit it in the bunkers or if you hit it anywhere, you just chop it out like I did. Felt like I kind of got unlucky. If it was probably in the bunker, I would have gone for the green, no doubt. But I’ll take my 4 and get out of there.”
Koepka’s victory will push him past Johnson in the Official World Golf Ranking, making the 29-year-old Koepka the World No. 1.
Sunday’s gusting winds gave players fits all day, and only 11 players shots under par in their final round, and no one bested 68. Six players finished under par for the tournament. Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay and Matt Wallace tied for third at two under.