© Reuters. May 21, 2023; Rochester, New York, USA; Brooks Koepka holds the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy after winning the PGA Championship golf tournament at Oak Hill Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster – USA TODAY Sports
By Steve Keating
ROCHESTER, New York (Reuters) – Brooks Koepka scored a PGA Championship hat-trick and a historic major victory for LIV Golf on Sunday, but the day also belonged to 46-year-old club professional Michael Block, who capped a golf fairy tale with a hole in one shot.
Koepka, saying he learned his lessons from last month’s Masters when he led by two before the final round before a collapse opened the door for Jon Rahm to grab the green jacket, started the day with a one shot advantage and wouldn’t let go.
In a cool and clinical display, Koepka returned a three-under 67 for a game-winning nine-under 271 total and a two-stroke win over world number two Scottie Scheffler and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
“I just found out that I knew what I did in Augusta,” Koepka told reporters. “I spent the whole night thinking about it.
“I knew what I was doing and I knew I was never going to go out and think that way again.
“I did not do this.”
The victory gives Koepka a fifth major championship and a third PGA championship with back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019.
As 33-year-old Koepka clung to a one-shot lead, the turning point came on the par four 16 where the American big-hitter birdied and Hovland double-bogeyed after trouble in a fairway bunker , opening a four-cushion shot.
Scheffler started the day four shots back, but by the back nine he was back in the thick of the hunt.
In the end, a terrible third round had put him in too big a hole that even the joint best round of the day, a five under 65, couldn’t get him out of.
Hovland, bidding to become the first Norwegian to win a golf major, closed with a 68 to grab a share of second place.
“It sucks right now, but it’s really cool to see things going in the right direction,” said Hovland, who has now played the last three majors with a tie for second at the British Open and a tied for seventh at the Masters. . “If I keep taking care of my business and keep working on what I’m doing, I think we’ll have one soon.”
Australian Cam Davis (65), Kurt Kitayama (65) and Bryson DeChambeau (70) finished tied six strokes for fourth place.
The win will be remembered as a historic moment for LIV Golf, with Koepka’s major victory being the first for a member of the controversial Saudi-funded circuit, providing much-needed validation.
LIV Golf critics called the big-budget business uncompetitive and little more than a sports washing business by a country keen to polish its human rights record.
Koepka’s win won’t put an end to human rights issues, but will give LIV Golf some of the credibility and respect it demands.
“I really think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in myself right now, to be honest with you,” said Koepka, who had seen his career stalled for much of the past two years by injuries to the knee and an operation. “I think I was the first to win two LIV events.
“Winning a major is always a big deal, no matter where you play.
“Yes, it’s a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time I’m here competing as an individual in the PGA Championship.”
For all the magic produced by the biggest names in golf at Oak Hill, none could match what Block, an unknown club pro, conjured up.
Already a fan favorite heading into the final round, Block, one of 20 teaching professionals on the court, added to a Rocky-like Hollywood storyline when his tee shot at the par-three 15th hit. soared through the air and slammed directly into the cup. without even shaking the flag.
The moment left Block, who was playing with four-time Major winner Rory McIlroy, in disbelief.
“No, no, no way. Did Rory come in? Block said off the tee as spectators erupted in wild scenes around the green.
Block, who wrote “Why Not” on his golf balls, became every man’s blue collar hero and gallery darling in Oak Hill carrying the hopes and dreams of every duffer who picked up a club.
His legion of fans failed to see the last of the club’s charismatic pros who finished with one out of 71, which was good enough for a tie for 15th place and automatic entry into next year’s PGA Championship.