Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka's challenge inspiring rivals like Tiger Woods once did

Likely victory on Sunday will restore Koepka to world No 1 and make him fifth PGA wire-to-wire winner

Brooks Koepka in action on the 18th hole at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale on Saturday. Justin Lane / EPA
Brooks Koepka in action on the 18th hole at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale on Saturday. Justin Lane / EPA

Record-smashing PGA Championship leader Brooks Koepka says his secrets to success are simpler than people think, as he inspires his rivals like Tiger Woods once did.

Three-time major winner Koepka fired a level-par 70 on Saturday to stand on 12-under 198 and seize a 54-hole tournament-record seven-stroke lead entering Sunday's final round at Bethpage Black.

No man has led a major by so much so late and lost.

A victory would restore Koepka to the world No 1 ranking and make him the fifth PGA wire-to-wire winner after Hal Sutton in 1983, Ray Floyd in 1982, Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and Bobby Nichols in 1964.

Koepka, whose calm under pressure and focus on shotmaking have become trademarks, shakes off any tensions the moment might bring.

"Just another round of golf," Koepka said. "It's just like any other round I've ever played. I'm going to try to play a good, solid round.

"It would be nice to be able to make a 10 on the last hole and be OK."

Koepka takes pride in being "pretty flatlined most of the time" but says he's not doing anything his rivals could not match.

"I feel like it's simpler than what guys think," Koepka said. "Guys make the mistake of trying to figure out, when they get to a major, what's going on, what's different.

"It's not. It's just focus. It's grind it out, suck it up, and move on.

"You're going to make a lot of mistakes. It's a major championship. You know it's going to happen and guys have a hard time letting that go."

A second-place pack after three rounds includes top-ranked Dustin Johnson, fellow Americans Luke List and Harold Varner and Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond.

Varner, for one, has not given up.

"You can't sit there and just weep and be like, 'He's so much better'," Varner said. "I think that's going to push you. It almost pisses me off."

Fellow American Harold Varner is not giving up on his bid to win the PGA Championship just yet. Seth Wenig / AP Photo
Fellow American Harold Varner is not giving up on his bid to win the PGA Championship just yet. Seth Wenig / AP Photo

'Why people work out'

But it was not lost on him that when Koepka was asked how he had the power to blast out of dense rough, he replied, "That's why I go to the gym."

Varner says Koepka is great for golf and will push rivals to improve their mental focus and fitness to maximise driving distance just as Woods did when he started winning majors at the 1997 Masters.

"If you don't go to sleep and think, 'Man, this makes me want to work harder [so] I can be that good,' then I don't know why you're playing," Varner said.

"It's going to make the other guys push themselves. Some guys won't, but it's pretty much what Tiger did for golf in general.

"It's the reason why people work out. It's the reason why people are so good. It's the reason why Brooks is doing what he's doing right now."

List echoes Varner's feelings on having to try to chase down Koepka.

"If we don't get up trying to win a championship tomorrow, then all of us have no chance," List said. "So it's out there. There have been some low rounds this week and I don't know what the wind is supposed to do.

"But if you go out there and shoot 5 or 6-under, you never know what can happen. I can't control what Brooks is doing. He has been playing tremendous golf and I just hope that I have a good day and that he doesn't have his best day."

Updated: May 19, 2019 09:59 AM

SHARE

SHARE

Editor's Picks