Tiger Woods places se­cond in PGA tour­na­ment, edged out by Brooks Koepka

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - GOLF

Brooks Koepka is im­pos­si­ble to over­look now, win­ning the PGA Championship on Sun­day with ma­chine-like pre­ci­sion to go with his back-to-back U.S. Open ti­tles.

And it still felt – and sounded – as if he was play­ing se­cond billing to Tiger Woods.

With roars for Woods un­heard of any­where this side of Au­gusta Na­tional, Koepka kept his cool and ran off two birdies on the back nine at Bel­lerive with Adam Scott tied for the lead and Woods one shot be­hind.

Koepka closed with a four-un­der 66 for a two-shot vic­tory, mak­ing him only the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.

“The crowds here, they let you know what’s go­ing on,” Koepka said with a big grin. “The be­gin­ning of the back nine, I could hear all the roars. When Tiger started mak­ing his lit­tle run, and Scotty made his run, it got loud.”

Even with two bo­geys, Woods shot 64 for his low­est fi­nal round in a ma­jor.

“I played hard,” Woods said. “I made a bit of a run. It looks like I’m go­ing to come up a lit­tle short.”

Koepka was re­spon­si­ble for that.

Af­ter wast­ing one chance to put it away, Koepka kept at­tack­ing flags and ran in birdie putts of 10 feet on No. 15 and seven feet on No. 16 to end the drama. He tapped in for par on the fi­nal hole to set the PGA Championship scor­ing record at 264.

It also tied the ma­jor championship record that Hen­rik Sten­son set at Royal Troon two years ago in the Bri­tish Open.

Koepka has won three of the past six ma­jors he played, and two of three this year alone. He joined Woods, Jack Nick­laus, Ben Ho­gan and Gene Sarazen as the only play­ers to win the two U.S. ma­jors that ro­tate to dif­fer­ent cour­ses in the same year.

The 28-year-old Florid­ian also joined Jor­dan Spi­eth, Woods, Nick­laus and Tom Wat­son as the only play­ers with three ma­jors be­fore turn­ing 30 since the Se­cond World War.

Scott hung around by mak­ing big putts, just like he hoped, and was tied for the lead un­til Koepka’s birdies. Scott missed a six-foot birdie putt on the par-five 17th that would have pulled him to within one shot – right af­ter Koepka missed from the same range – and then made bo­gey on the 18th for a 67 to fin­ish alone in third.

The St. Louis, Mo., fans waited 17 years to see Woods – he last was at Bel­lerive when the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks can­celled a World Golf Championship – and he de­liv­ered a per­for­mance that took golf back in time.

Thomas Bjorn might have seen it com­ing. Ear­lier in the week, as he was clean­ing out his locker af­ter with­draw­ing with an in­jury, he thought back to Woods get­ting into con­tention at Carnoustie last month at the Bri­tish Open. “He rec­og­nized who that guy was that day,” Bjorn said.

Woods was re­lent­less, pump­ing fists, rais­ing the put­ter in his left hand, mak­ing birdies and charg­ing to­ward a fin­ish that caused pure pan­de­mo­nium among one of the largest and nois­i­est crowds at a ma­jor.

With­out hit­ting a fair­way on the front nine, Woods cut the four-shot deficit to two.

Dialled in on the back nine, he dropped an ap­proach into four feet on No. 12, got within one shot with a 10-foot birdie on the par-three 13th and, af­ter a bad drive led to bo­gey, he an­swered with an­other ap­proach that hit a foot from the hole. That was as good as it got. Fac­ing the most im­por­tant drive of the day on the par-five 17th, Woods sent it sail­ing to the right and it em­bed­ded in a hazard along the banks of a creek. He did well to ad­vance it, but had to save par from a bunker. Be­hind him, Koepka holed his two birdie putts.

Woods and Koepka played nine holes of a prac­tice round on Wed­nes­day, and the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion knew what he was up against.

“It’s tough to beat when the guy hits it 340 down the mid­dle,” Woods said. “What he did at Shin­necock, just bomb­ing it, and then he’s do­ing the same thing here. … And when a guy’s do­ing that and hit­ting it straight, and as good a put­ter as he is, it’s tough to beat.”

Koepka never imag­ined a year like this. He missed four months at the start of the year with a par­tially torn ten­don in his left wrist, caus­ing him to sit out the Masters. He out­lasted good friend Dustin John­son at Shin­necock Hills to be­come the first back-to-back U.S. Open cham­pion in 29 years.

And now this.

Koepka joked about work­ing out in a pub­lic gym this week with Dustin John­son and not be­ing rec­og­nized. He has been mo­ti­vated by more se­ri­ous mo­ments, from be­ing left off the “no­table scores” sec­tion of TV cov­er­age at tour­na­ments and even last week, when he was not sum­moned for a TV in­ter­view to pre­view the PGA Championship.

He now is No. 2 in the world, with a shot at over­tak­ing John­son in two weeks when the FedEx Cup play­offs start.

Justin Thomas also had a chance to join Woods as the only back-to-back PGA cham­pi­ons in stroke play, and he was tied for the lead briefly on the front nine when Koepka missed fair­ways and made two straight bo­geys. Thomas turned birdie into bo­gey at the turn with a three-putt from five feet, and he missed a short par putt on the 14th to fall back. He shot 68 and tied for sixth.

Even with 17 play­ers sep­a­rated by three shots at one point on the front nine, ev­ery­one had to catch Koepka, Woods in­cluded.

SAM GREEN­WOOD/GETTY IMAGES

Brooks Koepka, left, of the United States cel­e­brates with cad­die Ricky El­liott af­ter win­ning the PGA Championship at Bel­lerive Coun­try Club on Sun­day in St Louis, Mo.

JAMIE SQUIRE/GETTY IMAGES

Tiger Woods plays a shot on the 17th hole at the PGA Championship in St. Louis on Sun­day. ‘What he did at Shin­necock, just bomb­ing it, and then he’s do­ing the same thing here … it’s tough to beat,’ Woods said of ma­jor win­ner Brooks Koepka.

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