Brooks Koepka fends off Johnson for second PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka held off a late charge from Dustin Johnson to capture his second consecutive PGA Championship on Sunday, completing a wire-to-wire victory for his fourth major title in nerve-wracking fashion.
A near-collapse saw Koepka’s record seven-stroke lead reduced to a single shot, but he withstood making four bogeys in a row on the back nine and another at 17 for an unexpectedly narrow triumph.
“This is probably the most satisfied I’ve been with all the majors,” said Koepka. “This one’s definitely at the top of the list of how emotionally and how mentally spent I am.”
Koepka fired a four-over par 74 final round at windy Bethpage Black to finish 72 holes on eight-under 272 and defeat Johnson by two strokes, replacing him as world number one as a result.
“I’m just glad we don’t have any more holes to play,” Koepka said. “That was a stressful round of golf.”
Bogeys by Johnson at 16 and 17 made the difference but Koepka made bogey at the par-3 17th, then escaped sand and weeds off the 18th tee by finding the fairway and green then sinking a six-foot putt for the victory.
“DJ played a hell of a round to come back and to grind it out,” Koepka said. “He did a great job putting pressure on me, making me play some solid golf down the stretch.”
The usually poker-faced Koepka admitted the moment got to him on the final hole, where he fired a fist pump after his winning putt.
“That was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life there on 18,” Koepka said.
Koepka, who seeks his third US Open win in a row next month at Pebble Beach, became the first man to own back-to-back titles at two majors simultaneously by capturing the Wanamaker Trophy and the $1.98 million (1.77 million euro) top prize.
“This is unbelievable,” Koepka said. “I don’t know if I even dreamed this. It’s amazing.”
The 29-year-old American became the PGA’s fifth wire-to-wire winner after Hal Sutton in 1983, Ray Floyd in 1982, Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and Bobby Nichols in 1964.
Koepka joined Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back stroke-play winners of the PGA, Woods having done it in 2006-07 as well as 1999-2000.
Koepka seized a tournament-record lead of seven strokes after 54 holes on 12-under par 198.
No man has led a major by so much so late and lost. But Koepka came close.
Johnson, who shot 69, shrank the margin to four shots at the turn and just one with four holes to play, only for Koepka to outlast his US compatriot.
Johnson, seeking his second major title after the 2016 US Open, was hoping to match the best final-round win comeback in PGA history, John Mahaffey’s seven-shot rally in 1978.
Instead, he completed a career “runner-up” Grand Slam, having placed second at the 2011 British Open, 2015 US Open and last month’s Masters.
“I’m pleased with the way I played. I gave myself a chance,” Johnson said.
“The golf course played extremely difficult. The wind was really blowing. I played really well.”