By Sam McPherson
Brooks Koepka won the 100th PGA Championship on Sunday at Bellerive Country Club outside of St. Louis, and in doing so, he became one of just five golfers in history to win the U.S. Open and the PGA in the same season. Ironically, one of those other golfers, Tiger Woods, finished second, coming up just short in his quest to win a major tournament more than ten years after winning his last one. Koepka barely blinked in a fourth round he started with a two-shot lead, shooting 66 to finish at 16-under par, while Woods thrilled the crowds repeatedly with a wild round of 64 to finish two strokes behind the winner.
In addition to joining Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Jack Nicklaus (1982), and Woods (2000) in exclusive company as winners of the U.S. Open and the PGA in the same year, Koepka also set the 72-hole scoring record for the PGA Championship with his 264 total. His win was fueled by a tournament-record 63 in the second round and by steady play in the face of a patented Woods charge in the fourth round.
Although Woods never took the lead, he made eight birdies on Sunday to constantly keep the pressure on Koepka and Adam Scott, who played in the final pairing, two groups behind Woods. Scott posted 67 in the fourth round to finish third at 13 under, his best result in a major tournament since 2013 when he won the Masters and finished tied for third in the British Open. Stewart Cink and Jon Rahm finished tied for fourth at 11-under par.
No matter what any other player did on the course, though, the champion rarely wavered, especially on the final 12 holes which he played in 5-under par. Koepka, who missed the Masters this year due to injury, is now a shoo-in winner for the PGA of America Player of the Year, having won two of the three majors he played in this season. He started off with a 69 on Thursday while some other golfers got the headlines, but Koepka's 63-66-66 brilliance over the final three rounds was unmatched, even by Woods' own stunning 66-66-64 stretch over the same days.
Woods opened with a 70 on Thursday, and it was Gary Woodland, who won the Phoenix Open back in February, surprisingly in the lead after the first round of play, shooting 64 to take a one-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler. Zach Johnson was tied for third at 4-under par, just two strokes behind Woodland, with Brandon Stone. Eleven golfers shot 67—including Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Ian Poulter, and Justin Rose—to create a bunched-up leaderboard heading into the second round at Bellerive.
After the completion of the second round on Saturday morning due to weather issues on Friday afternoon, Woodland still led the tournament. He carded a 66 to sit at 10-under par, closely followed by Kevin Kisner at 9 under. Kisner shot 64 in the second, and coupled with his 67 from Thursday, he found himself in sole possession of second place. Fowler was in third, two shots back of the lead, after a second-round 67, tied with Koepka, who shot his blistering tournament-record 63 on Friday before the weather delay.
Overall, 17 players were within five shots of Woodland heading into the third round on Saturday, and close to half of them already had won a major in their respective careers. At one point, Koepka threatened to run away with tournament, as he led by five strokes for a time. However, by the end of Saturday play, the eventual champion led by two strokes at 12-under par after shooting 66. Scott carded a 65 to finish at 10 under, while three players were tied at 9-under par: Fowler, Woodland, and Rahm. Woods lurked in a six-way tie for sixth-place tie at 8 under after posting his second straight round of 66.
Despite his brilliant career, Woods has never won a major when attempting to come from behind in the fourth round, and in addition to making those eight birdies on Sunday, Woods also carded two bogeys which ended up costing him a chance to break that pattern. Needless to say, with a sixth-place tie at the British Open also under his belt this season—where he actually led briefly in the final round—Woods made it clear on Sunday he may yet have more major championships in his future.
In the end, however, the 100th PGA Championship belonged to Brooks Koepka. With his third major title, having also won the U.S. Open in 2017, Koepka is now part of another select group of golfers to have won at least three majors in their 20s. He doesn't turn 29 until next May, so Koepka will have a few more chances to add to his collection of big wins.
Next On The Tee: Wyndham Championship
It's been an exciting month for the PGA Tour, and after the thrilling Sunday at Bellerive, a lot of players are taking this week off in preparation for the upcoming FedEx Cup Playoffs and perhaps also the Ryder Cup. Once known as the Greater Greensboro Open for decades, the Wyndham is a great opportunity late in the season to collect money and points for a lot of golfers that may not have been able to break through yet this year. Henrik Stenson is the defending champion, as the Tour heads to North Carolina and the Sedgefield Country Club for an event that dates back to 1938, when the legendary Sam Snead won the first of his record eight event titles.
Stenson is back to defend his victory, and he will face challenges from former Wyndham champions Si Woo Kim (2016), Davis Love III (2015), Sergio Garcia (2012), and Webb Simpson (2011). Also scheduled to play in the tournament is Rafa Cabrera Bello, who shot 64 on Sunday at the PGA to finish in a tie for tenth place at 9-under par. Cink and Scott will try to capitalize on their excellent play at Bellerive, too, hoping it carries over to Sedgefield. United States Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk, who won the 2003 U.S. Open, will be on hand and in the field to perhaps do some last-minute scouting for that international competition scheduled for September 28-30 in France.
Dating back to 1938, the event has been played predominantly on the Sedgefield course, designed by Donald Ross in 1926. Although Scottish by birth, Ross designed hundreds of course in the United States, although this loop is the only he created that is still used for a PGA Tour event. He also designed U.S. Open courses at Oakland Hills, Michigan, and Pinehurst, North Carolina. Stenson set the tournament's aggregate scoring record last year (258) with his victory.
The Sedgefield Country Club (Ross) course plays 7,127 yards long and is a par 70.
Favorites: Shane Lowry, Adam Scott, Harold Varner III
Players to Watch: Rafa Cabrera Bello, Stewart Cink, Henrik Stenson
Sam McPherson is a freelance writer covering baseball, football, basketball, golf and fantasy sports for CBS Local. He also is an Ironman triathlete and certified triathlon coach. Follow him on Twitter @sxmcp, because he's quite prolific despite also being a college English professor and a certified copy editor.
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