PGA: Koepka wins 2nd ma­jor of sea­son

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - SPORTS -

Nick­laus and Tom Wat­son as the only play­ers with three ma­jors be­fore turn­ing 30 since World War II.

Scott hung around by mak­ing big putts, just like he hoped, and was tied for the lead un­til Koepka’s birdies. Scott missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 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 fans waited 17 years to see Woods — he last was at Bel­lerive when the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks can­celed 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.

Dialed in on the back nine, he dropped an ap­proach into 4 feet on No. 12, got within one shot with a 10-foot birdie on the par-3 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-5 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 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 when 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 5 feet, and he missed a short par putt on the 14th to fall back. He shot 68 and tied for sixth.


Tiger Woods re­acts to sink­ing a birdie putt on the ninth green dur­ing the fi­nal round of the PGA Cham­pi­onship on Sun­day at Bel­lerive Coun­try Club in St. Louis.

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