PITTSFORD, NY — Six weeks ago on Sunday, Brooks Koepka couldn’t sleep. He had something to ponder, and the devil had to chase him. After surviving everything from a horrific knee injury, the agonies of unfulfilled ambitions, the taunts in professional golf and a cracked spleen that helped him personify, he recovered to lead in the Masters Tournament. I did, but then it slowed down. Collapsed, really.
As he recalled at Oak Hill Country Club over the weekend, he vowed in the end, “I don’t think what I was thinking going into the final round.” On Sunday evening, Koepka proved himself right. He won the PGA Championship by two strokes, earning his first major trophy since 2019. It was Koepka’s fifth major win, tied with Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson.
“Of all the things that have happened in the last few years, all the crazy things that have happened, I think this is probably the most meaningful one,” said Koepka, who received about 600 text messages before breaking the news. said meeting. “But I’m happy to come back and get the number five.”
The victory made him a member of LIV Golf, a first-year breakaway league funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and the first member to win a major title since joining the circuit. And Mr. Koepka’s victory at Oak Hill is a way to quell some of the LIV’s criticisms, such as its ties to repressive governments, its controversial intentions, and its gleefully instigating a financial arms race in ancient sports. It was of little use, but it definitively put an end to the following controversy. A man who has played in just a few tournaments of 54 holes can win his 72-hole stage, golf’s most spectacular.
“I definitely think it will be beneficial for the LIV,” Koepka said. “But to be honest, I’m more interested in myself now.”
Unsurprisingly, he posted a 3-under 67 on Sunday, silencing the notion that seemed a little off the mark after the Masters that his fighting days were over by going 9-under in the tournament. . But this player is 33 years old and his 2022 major season record was as follows: uncut, tied for 55th, solo 55th, uncut. It was easy to forget that in 2021, the order was uncut, tied for 2nd, tied for 4th, tied for 6th.
By the end of last year, his recovery was nearly complete, and he had a growing sense that he might finally be able to rejoin society again. Around January, he said he was sure of it.
“He’s back healthy,” said Cameron Smith, who won the British Open last summer and joined LIV later this year. “I think it gives me a little bit of confidence on the inside as well as being able to go out and do my job.”
The prospect of Mr. Koepka outlives the stars didn’t seem so recently as Thursday, when it seemed closer to impossible than improbable. He opened the tournament with a 2-over 72, but by his own account he was in bad shape and was struggling to hit the ball as he wanted. He can’t remember the last time he hit him so hard, he said.
However, the first major event at Oak Hill since a major effort was made to revive some of the difficult tests that characterized the Donald J. He wasn’t far behind as he emerged as one of the most feared PGA Championships. It’s a frequent reminder of the rigors of the 2008 Oakland Hills, Michigan competition. Of the 156 players who entered last week, only 11 finished below average. It’s a far cry from 2013, when 21 players finished in the red at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
This stinginess became more forgiving on Sunday, despite a course with dangerously rough and unobtrusive bunkers. Smith, Kam Davis, Kurt Kitayama and Sepp Straka all hit 65s on Sunday to climb up the leaderboard. Patrick Cantley, who scored one of the few eagles in the tournament, signed at 66. Michael Block, head pro at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in southeast Los Angeles by day, recorded a hole-in-one on the first 15 holes. Ace of the PGA Championship by club pros since 1996.
But much of Sunday’s focus was on Koepka. Up-and-coming Norwegian talent Viktor Hovland. And Scotty Schaeffler, who is ranked second in the official world golf rankings. Koepka finished in 44th place on Sunday as his lucrative ties with LIV, whose tournament is not accredited to the ranking system, saw him slip from the standings. (The PGA of America, which hosted this tournament, is distinct from LIV’s rival, the PGA Tour). )
Koepka stood on the first tee box with a one-shot lead and quickly doubled the lead with a birdie on the second hole. He played the holes to par the first three days, always reaching the green in two, but left behind long putts. On Sunday, the pin was on the right front of the green, requiring less than five feet.
After the tournament’s longest tee shot on the hole known as Vista, his birdie putt on the third hole was even shorter, extending his advantage to three strokes.
The 6th hole, which has been a threat to many players throughout the tournament, is approaching. Koepka survived the hall. Thursday, Friday and Saturday were difficult par-4s that finished with an average of 4.52, and pars were good in the first three rounds. But on Sunday, his tee shot flew right and hit the deep grass of the so-called native area. He dropped, landed on the green about 191 yards from the hole, and eventually bogeyed away. Koepka followed with a bogey, but Hovland stumbled on the seventh.
Koepka led Hobland by one stroke on the turn. Schaeffler, the steady-voiced sensation since last year’s Masters triumph, and 2020 US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau were three behind the leader.
Koepka responded with a charming flurry of birdies, bogeys and birdies. Hovland had a chance for a birdie on the 12th hole, but his tap from about 15 feet was just off the left side of the cup. Koepka’s advantage returned to two with six holes to go. After 2 holes, it dropped to 1 hole.
But almost every major tournament comes at a moment when one man’s victory seems inevitable. It may not have been mathematically determined yet, but almost everyone knows the tournament ended before it actually ended.
On Sunday, the scene at that moment was the 16th hole. It wasn’t the most hell in Oak Hill, but it wasn’t nearly as hell. But Hovland will remember it.
After teeing the ball into the bunker, he swings the 9-iron. With less than 175 yards left on the hole, he swung and sent the ball flying, but hit the edge of the bunker instead of the green. His fourth shot reached the green. He missed his bogey putt and made a double bogey. Koepka built a four-shot lead with a birdie in the twilight on his bid to win his third PGA Championship.
“It’s not easy to go head-to-head with someone like that,” said Hobland, who has finished in the top seven in three consecutive majors, of his confrontation with Koepka. “He’s not going to give you anything. I didn’t feel like giving him anything until I was 16.”
Schaeffler soon followed with a birdie putt on the 18th green to narrow Koepka’s path. Koepka himself closed the gap further with a bogey on the 17th.
He reached the 18th hole, where he was playing for 497 yards on Sunday, with two shots left. The tee shot flew high into the fairway and stopped at 318 yards. The towering grandstands in the distance were filled with spectators as well as the galleries lining the fairways, waiting to see if Koepka was really back after all.
His next swing put the ball on the green. Applause erupted with each steep climb, the kind of climb that Koepka would have felt like Mount Everest to Koepka these days. He got down on his knees—sometimes he couldn’t even bend his knees, he said—and approached the ball. He straightened up and tapped the ball forward.
Tournament officials said it stopped about three inches short.
He, of course, smiled stiffly, as if he had one last problem.
he tried again. The ball fell into the cup. He raised his fists and hugged Caddy for nearly nine seconds.
Indeed, after all, Koepka is back.