Koepka joins exclusive company in golf history
He's just the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same season
August 13, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
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ST. LOUIS – Beating back inspired charges from two of his golfing idols, Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka fires a final-round 66 to win the PGA Championship by two at Bellerive Country Club.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Koepka — who has now won three majors in his last six major starts — kept up a steady assault with his long game and made the clutch putts to join an exclusive list of players who have won the U.S. Open and PGA in the same year.
1 Koepka is now part of golf history.
Gene Sarazen won the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same season in 1922, Ben Hogan did it in ’48, Jack Nicklaus in ’80, and Tiger Woods in 2000. Now Koepka has done it.
That’s a pretty short list.
“Three majors at 28? It’s a cool feeling,” Koepka said. “Hopefully I can stay healthy. I’ve had some problems with that over the years.”
Koepka missed most of the four months of this season with a wrist injury, but he found a way to turn even that into a positive. “Sitting on the couch,” he said, “made me really appreciate how much I actually love this game and love competition.”
2 He has mastered his mental game.
Much has been made of Koepka’s physical prowess, and for good reason. He was over 25 yards longer off the tee than the field, and hit more drives 320 yards or longer (26) than anyone else.
But big tournaments require a steady nerve and uncommon grit, which is why it’s worth noting Koepka’s mental game. When Scott rallied to tie him on the back nine, he didn’t panic. When an ear-splitting roar reverberated across the course, the result of Woods’ unlikely birdie at the ninth hole, he put his head down and stuck to his own game.
Also, Koepka continued to win despite not starting very well. At the U.S. Open he shot an opening-round 75 and was 7 over through his first 25 holes. This time, at the PGA, he was 2 over for his first 10 holes but still wound up with the aggregate scoring record (264).
For Koepka, developing his mental game meant first controlling his fire.
“He had a temper when he came here,” Florida State Men’s Golf Coach Trey Jones said as he watched the telecast Sunday. “And to his credit, he felt like it was a weakness, and wasn’t who he wanted to be, and he changed.”
3 Woods worth the wait
Woods was supposed to play Bellerive for the 2001 World Golf Championships-American Express Championship, but the tournament was canceled after the September 11th terrorist attacks. He missed the 2008 BMW Championship at Bellerive, won by Camilo Villegas, after undergoing surgery on his left knee.
Finally, St. Louis golf fans got to see Tiger at the PGA, with massive crowds thrilling at his Sunday charge. His final-round 64 was arguably the most entertaining 18 holes of this PGA: the erratic tee shots but par saves on the front, the crazy birdie at 9, the laser-like iron shots all day, the unlikely par at 17, and finally the birdie to cap it off at 18.
It was all terrific theater, as was Woods’ final thumbs-up to the crowd.
“Oh, the people here were so positive, the energy was incredible,” he said.
Just a year removed from questions about his future due to fusion surgery on his back, his comeback keeps reaching new heights. He is up to 20th in the FedExCup, making him a lock for at least the first three Playoffs events, and all but wrapped up a Ryder Cup captain’s pick.
“I’m in uncharted territory,” Woods said. He almost always is.
4 Thomas inching closer to FedExCup history.
No one has successfully defended his title since the 2007 inception of the FedExCup, but Justin Thomas (68, T6) closed the gap to just 83 points between himself and No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Still, Thomas wasn’t overjoyed. He was in the mix to successfully defend his PGA title, first and foremost, and by his own admission failed to execute on the back nine. Most damaging, he said, was not his three-putt at the ninth but his bogey at 14, where he pulled his approach into a bunker. He did well to get it out, but missed his three-foot putt for par.
“I just shouldn't have never been there,” he said of the bunker. “I had a wedge in my hand, I should have had it inside 10 feet for birdie and, yeah, that just kind of killed all my momentum.”
5 Plenty of positives for Scott, Cink, Woodland
Adam Scott, who shot a final-round 67 to finish solo third, had been scuffling this season, a T9 at the AT&T Byron Nelson his only top-10 finish. The 2013 Masters champion moved from 119th in the FedExCup, on the bubble for even making the Playoffs, to 70th and safely into the first two tournaments. Also, this marked his best finish on TOUR in two years.
Cink (67, T4) moved up to 55th in the FedExCup with his best finish in a major since winning the 2009 Open Championship. The six-time TOUR winner hadn’t even played in a PGA since missing four straight cuts in the season’s fourth major from ’11 to ’14, and it will not be lost on him that the top four and ties at the PGA are exempt into the Masters.
Finally, it was the 28th major start and first top-10 finish for Woodland (69, T6), who held up well playing in the same twosome as Woods.
1 Koepka ruled the ball-striking stats. He was second in driving distance; averaging 324.1 yards off the tee, first in driving distance (all drives) with 307.6; first in percentage yardage covered by tee shots (66.3 percent); first in approach shots from the fairway (22’ 5’’); and first in approaches from 150-175 yards (17’ 2’’).
2 He also did well in the Strokes Gained stats. He was second in SG: Off-the-Tee (+1.470); 9th in SG: Approach-the-Green (+1.472); 44th in SG: Around-the-Green (-0.005); and 18th in SG: Putting (+1.015). All of it added up to a $1.98 million check.
3 Woods was attempting to win a major for the first time since the 2008 U.S. Open, a span of 3,709 days, and would have tied Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen for most PGA wins (five). This marked his 31st runner-up finish on TOUR, and eighth in a major.
4 Koepka said the back nine was easier, even though it gave him and runner-up Woods plenty of trouble both Saturday and Sunday. Neither player managed to birdie the short, par-5 17th hole in the final round. Which side was tougher? The back, as it turned out, was slightly more difficult, playing to a 34.997 stroke average compared to 34.955 on the front. Call it the fatigue factor.
5 Ben Kern of Texas, the only club pro of 20 in the field to make the cut, played with Zach Johnson (66, T19) and shot a final-round 70 to finish T42.