Koepka takes lead into fi­nal round

Koepka rides quick start to 66; Woods four shots be­hind

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - SPORTS+ -

Brooks Koepka will take a two-shot lead over Adam Scott into the fi­nal round of the PGA Cham­pi­onship af­ter shoot­ing a 4-un­der 66 that left him at 12 un­der for the tour­na­ment. Koepka is try­ing to be­come the first player since Tiger Woods to cap­ture the U.S. Open and PGA in the same year. Woods is four shots back, in a six-way tie for sixth. Af­ter miss­ing the cut, Phil Mick­el­son will fail to au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for the Ry­der Cup team for the first time since 1993.

ST. LOUIS — Brooks Koepka some­times gets ig­nored on tele­vi­sion in the list of no­table scores. In the gym, he gets over­looked by Dustin John­son

There is no mis­tak­ing him in a ma­jor.

Koepka bul­lied rain­soft­ened Bel­lerive on Sat­ur­day in the PGA Cham­pi­onship, build­ing CBS, 2 p.m. a five-shot lead un­til he had to scram­ble to avoid a slide on the back nine. He set­tled for a 4-un­der 66 and a twoshot lead over Adam Scott go­ing into the fi­nal round of the fi­nal ma­jor of the year.

At stake is a chance to win three of the past six ma­jors he played, and to join an elite list — Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Ho­gan and Gene Sarazen — as the only play­ers to win the U.S. Open and PGA Cham­pi­onship in the same year.

“You can’t hide when you’re on the top of the leader board,” he said. “You can’t hide my name. So just try to get to the top of the leader board and work from there.”

Even so, one mis­step and it might be easy to get lost at this ma­jor.

Scott had a 65, de­spite miss­ing three putts from 6 feet, two of them for birdie. He is strug­gling through his worst sea­son since he turned pro in 2000, and now has a chance to turn it into a year he won’t for­get.

Ten play­ers were within four shots of the lead, no name big­ger — no buzz big­ger — than Woods. He com­pleted his sec­ond round Sat­ur­day morn­ing with a 66, and then had another 66 in the af­ter­noon that was so good it was the worst he could have shot. He made noth­ing but pars over the last 10 holes. On seven of the last eight holes, Woods had a birdie or ea­gle putt of 20 feet or closer and missed them all.

He was four shots be­hind in a tie for sixth, the same spot he was in go­ing in the fi­nal day at the British Open last month, when he briefly had the lead be­fore fad­ing.

“I just wish I could have got my­self a cou­ple more shots closer to the lead,” Woods said. “But there aren’t a lot of guys up there in front of me.”

The list in­cluded Jon Rahm (66), Rickie Fowler (69) and Gary Woodland (71), who gave him­self a chance de­spite fall­ing six shots be­hind af­ter a triple bo­gey from his foot­prints in the sand at No. 10.

Koepka was at 12-un­der 198 and even with his ma­jor pedi­gree — the first player with back-to-back U.S. Opens in 29 years — he will play in the fi­nal group of a ma­jor for the first time. Koepka was in the penul­ti­mate group at the U.S. Opens he won.

He plans to spend Sun­day morn­ing work­ing out, as he has done all week at a lo­cal gym. Koepka was there Sat­ur­day morn­ing with John­son and no­ticed ev­ery­one try­ing to get pic­tures of the world’s No. 1 player.

“They were like, ‘Did you see the No. 1 player in the world was here?’ I don’t know what to say to that,” Koepka said with a laugh.

He cares only about in­side the ropes, and he thrives in the ma­jors.

“Ev­ery shot’s so im­por­tant out here,” he said.

No shots were more im­por­tant than a four­hole stretch he played in 2 over that turned Sun­day into what could be a free-for-all.

An 8-foot par save on No. 13 gave him a fiveshot lead, but then two er­rant drives led to con­sec­u­tive bo­geys — the first one from 100 feet away in a bunker, end­ing a streak of 43 holes with­out a bo­gey, the next one when his tee shot stopped rolling at the base of a tree and forced him to take a one-shot penalty to move it away. He had to get upand-down to lim­ited the dam­age to a bo­gey. And then he made a 10-foot par.

“Try to make the best out of a bad sit­u­a­tion and keep rolling,” Koepka said.

Koepka won the U.S. Open on two cour­ses that re­quired one ex­treme to the other in scor­ing — 16 un­der at Erin Hills, 1 over at Shin­necock Hills. Bel­lerive presents a dif­fer­ent test. It’s so soft that the av­er­age score Sat­ur­day was 69.5, and a charge can come from any­where.

“Not just my­self, but ev­ery­one’s go­ing to have to shoot low rounds,” Woods said. “It’s soft, it’s get­table, and you can’t just go out there and make a bunch of pars.”

Scott got into the hunt with four birdies in a six­hole stretch on the front, set up by his pure driv­ing and iron play, and lim­ited mis­takes with the put­ter. His only miss was from in­side 3 feet for par on the 15th hole, though he an­swered im­me­di­ately with a tee shot to 2 feet at the par-3 16th.

“It’s a packed leader board and there are go­ing to be about 10 of us look­ing for that round of the year,” Scott said. “Some­one will go out and do it, and I’m glad I’m in that po­si­tion that it could be me.”

As easy as it looks at times, Bel­lerive can still bite at any mo­ment.

Jor­dan Spi­eth found that out on a hole that ef­fec­tively ended his sec­ond bid for the ca­reer Grand Slam.

From well right of the 12th fair­way, he tried to hit through a gap and in­stead car­omed off a tree and out-of-bounds, lead­ing to triple bo­gey and fall­ing back to 4 un­der for the tour­na­ment.

He had to set­tle for a 69 and was eight shots be­hind, with 27 play­ers in front of him.


Brooks Koepka, play­ing a shot on the 15th hole at Bel­lerive Coun­try Club, built a five-shot lead but a pair of back-nine bo­geys helped a strong list of con­tenders draw closer.

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