Stamina will play pivotal role in who wins 100th PGALeader Koepka has gone 18 each day; others hoping to regroup after exhausting Saturday
August 11, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Brooks Koepka comments after Round 3 of the PGA Championship
ST. LOUIS – How effectively the chase pack can reel in leader Brooks Koepka (66, 12 under) in the final round of the 100th PGA Championship may depend on what’s left in the tank.
Koepka leads second-place Adam Scott (65) by two shots, and they will go off in the last twosome at 2:55 ET Sunday. Both played just 18 holes Saturday, while others endured a marathon day after a thunderstorm chased them off the course the day before.
Shane Lowry (69, 8 under) woke up at 4:30 a.m., and others had a similarly early rise to resume their second rounds. Rounding up, Rickie Fowler (69, 9 under) played 27 holes, Jason Day (67, 8 under) sweated out 28, and Tiger Woods (66, 8 under) and Justin Thomas (68, 8 under) endured 29.
“I'm tired,” Woods said. “I am definitely tired. … It's not necessarily the physical, it's this mentally grinding that hard for 29 holes in this heat. It was a long day.
“I'm done with the golf side of it today,” he added. “I've had enough.”
Majors are always exhausting, and the heat and humidity at Bellerive had already taken a toll even before what turned into an exceptionally long Saturday. Now the question is who, if anyone, can summon the energy for a come-from-behind victory Sunday?
“I think it starts tonight, being able to hydrate,” Day said. “If the guys that came this morning and played a certain amount of holes, they definitely need the recovery because it's going to be difficult to recover fully from what we did today. … Once it gets hot and you start thinking about the heat and how hot it is, then you start making mental errors.”
Koepka leads by three over Fowler, Gary Woodland (71) and Jon Rahm (66), and there are six players at 8 under, four back, led by Woods, Day and defending PGA and FedExCup champion Thomas.
That much of a lead promises to be formidable for a player like Koepka, who at times has manhandled Bellerive and came into this week brimming with confidence after having won the last two U.S. Opens.
“For some reason I can really tune in in the majors,” he said, “and I have no idea why.”
How important is stamina here? Woods has played the front nine in 10 under this week, but the back in 2 over. His shocking three-putt for par at 17 Saturday, giving him a deflating par after eying an eagle chance from just under 20 feet, typified his struggles.
Tiger Woods comments after Round 3 of the PGA Championship
He’s not the only one who has struggled on the back. Koepka shot 5 under on the front Saturday, but 1 over on the back. This, despite the fact that he actually believes the back is the easier nine.
“I think the back nine's actually more gettable,” he said.
Fatigue is playing a factor, which is why it may be so important that he is one of the freshest golfers, having to play just 18 holes each day. He is already possessed of a physicality and stamina that sets him apart. Every day this week Koepka has gone to Lifetime Fitness, a way to stay in shape while also giving him something to do before late-afternoon tee times.
“Today I was in there with Dustin and everybody wanted a picture with Dustin,” Koepka said. “They were talking about him as we left and I was just standing there laughing. They were like, ‘Did you see that No. 1 player in the world was here?’ It's like, yeah, okay.”
Koepka smiled. “I don't know what to say to that. It was like, all right.”
Making his 100th start on the PGA TOUR, Koepka would be just the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year. In other words, he won’t be going under the radar for much longer. The plan for Sunday is more of the same, starting with Lifetime Fitness.
“Probably wake up about 6 o'clock, have breakfast, wait a little bit, chill, and go to the gym,” he said of his plan for Sunday. “Same routine I did this morning. By the time -- the gym's kind of like a little getaway for me, especially when you got these late tee times.”
The plan for everyone else? Hydrate. Try to take advantage of the par 5s and sprinkle in a few birdies on the rest of the holes. Keep the big numbers off the scorecard. And then hope.
“It just depends on Brooks,” Lowry said. “He could go out and shoot 4- or 5-under tomorrow, and that’s the end of the rest of us.”
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