ST. LOUIS — The Wanamaker trophy is just 18 holes away from finding its new running mate. The options are aplenty, with 20 players within six shots of the lead. Who will it be? Brooks Koepka is your front-runner.
11. [insert one of nine golfers ranked 15th-75th] wins, remarkably
The likes of Xander Schauffele, Webb Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Pat Perez, Daniel Berger, Charl Schwartzel and Thomas Pieters are all within that six-shot range. A win from any of them would be…underwhelming? Not merely because of their lack of star power, but because of the other big names that follow.
Now, if one of them shoots 61 to take the crown, that’s a different story. Just don’t count on it.
10. Julian Suri sends the PGA to New York
Suri continues his career week with not one but two eagles on Sunday, sprinting up the leaderboard and causing all kinds of viewers at home to wonder, “Is it Soo-ri, or Sir-ri?” Despite fans calling him the Modern Day Shaun Micheel, Suri proves to be a fitting end to PGA Championships staged in August. With his win, the world also learns that he was born in New York City; he’ll return to the Big Apple in nine months to defend his crown. Jim Nantz eats that up as we all wipe our sweaty hands clean of the St. Louis summer.
9. Ben Kern strikes PGA Magic
Sporting his unique look — bucket hat and arm sleeves — Kern, the lone club pro playing this weekend, captivates TV viewers while firing a flawless 31 on Sunday’s front nine and holds on for a where-were-you-when 65 that pushes him into the top 15. He’s the highest finishing club pro since Sam Snead in 1973. Koepka, however, still beats him by eight.
8. Francesco Molinari takes the reigns
Why just win one major for Italy when you can claim two? Francesco, just weeks after shooting one of the best 69s in major championship history at Carnoustie, cards an epic 64 to post 13 under and is shocked along with the rest of the world when the players in front of him crumble.
With Rory and Rose bowing out of this major early, Molinari becomes the defacto European Ryder Cup leader. Somehow, his singular performance convinces certain scribes that the American team should not longer be favored in Paris.
7. Jason Day becomes the PGA’s Andy North
After rounds of 67, 68 and 67, Day saves his best for last, running up the leaderboard with an electric 64 to post-and-wait. After a hour with his family in the clubhouse, Day improbably birdies all three holes of the playoff to beat Koepka by two. With three wins on the season, including this major, Day is your undisputed Player of the Year, an award he probably should have won once by now. He races back into the top five in the world ranking, too, but wastes all his remaining energy and health during the celebration, causing him to miss the first two FedEx Cup Playoff events.
6. Jon Rahm launches his career
The young man from Basque Country plays a cool, calm and collected 18, making five birdies and no bogeys. Only after the final putt drops does he let out a primal yell, just like he did during his first Tour win at Torrey Pines. Rahm gets his first real engagement gift, designs an even better ring for his fiancee and incites all kinds of irrelevant comparisons to the the all-time Spanish greats. But since he’s just 23 years old, how can we resist?
5. Brooks Koepka, best since Tiger?
We know it to be true: Koepka is a major-hunter. But that takes on newfound meaning when he wins his third major in his last six attempts. Somehow Koepka continues to step up in these four events every year better than anyone else today.
He begins his day with a two shot lead, casually extends it with a 33 on the front nine and holds on. In his championship press conference, he is more eloquent than ever, winning over all kinds of fans who previously continued to overlook him. That makes him, and his coach, very happy. With the win, he stamps his name on the Player of the Year trophy, and adds himself to the debate of Best Since Tiger. Spieth, McIlroy and DJ, be warned.
4. Justin Thomas rallies to defend
A bit like he did a year ago, Justin Thomas rallies on Sunday, making eagle on the 17th and sending roars back at all the players behind him. The PGA Professional story that defines the Thomas family continues to control headlines for another 12 months, but with a second major in as many years, Thomas takes another huge hack at the throne Spieth built as best player of this generation. It also pushes Thomas back into the No. 1 spot in the world golf ranking, and makes the Player of the Year race A LOT more interesting.
3. Adam Scott (somehow) putts well enough to win
Few things would have seemed more of a long shot at the beginning of this week than Adam Scott putting his way to a second career major. Scott entered the week ranked 192nd this season in Strokes Gained: Putting, but this week through three rounds he’s a solid 24th.
Scott uses that broomstick putter to make a 10-footer on 18 for a 66. He points to the sky in honor of the late Jarrod Lyle, his fellow countryman and friend who passed earlier this week. Bellerive becomes a historic location for Australian golf.
2. Rickie Fowler wins for himself and for Jarrod Lyle
Slick Rick finally gets it done, and does so wearing a duck-pin tagged to the ‘P’ of his hat in honor of Lyle. Not only does he win during the week in which he lost a friend, but he shakes the gorilla off his back in his final major before turning 30.
Like he did at Augusta, Fowler executes near-perfect golf over the last four holes, converting three birdies for a one-shot victory. As one of the most popular players in the game, the discussion of will-he/won’t-he is finally moot. St. Louis Cardinals fans celebrate their new favorite golfer by waving Dexter Fowler player tees in the air.
1. Tiger Woods, Major 15, Earth stops spinning
The greatest comeback in golf becomes the greatest comeback in sports. And it would be unlike any of Tiger’s previous major wins — a Sunday rally from multiple shots back. Woods has struggled on the back nine all week, but gets himself moving in the right direction with a birdie on the 11th. He hits an epic (and now historic) approach into the 17th, making eagle on Sunday where he missed on Saturday.
The name ‘WOODS’ in the clubhouse freaks out Koepka, which in turn freaks out Scott. Tiger wins this one in the clubhouse with a third-straight 66, and it leads to a tearful appearance on Good Morning America on Monday [SPONSORED BY MONSTER ENERGY DRINKS].