The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS–The roars were unlike anything Brooks Koepka had ever heard–and he knew exactly what they meant.
They got louder for each birdie by Tiger Woods that moved him closer to the lead yesterday in the PGA Championship, and Koepka could hear a ripple effect of noise.
First, real time. Seconds later, another burst from patrons watching on TV in chalets. Then, distant cheers from every corner of Bellerive when the score was posted.
“We knew what was going on,” Koepka said.
“It’s pretty obvious when Tiger makes a birdie,” he added. “Everybody on the golf course cheers for him.”
Koepka knew exactly what to do.
Amid relentless pandemonium, Koepka ran off three-straight birdies to end the front nine and seize control.
When he was tied with Adam Scott through 14 holes, with Woods one shot behind, he delivered back-to-back birdies.
The last one was a laser of a four-iron from 248 yards that settled six feet away, sending him to a dream finish of a year that began with the 28-year-old Floridian wondering if a wrist injury that kept him out four months would ever allow him to compete again.
“That will probably go down as probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit under pressure,” he remarked.
Koepka closed with a four-under 66 for a two-shot victory over Woods and took his place among the elite in golf.
Koepka became just the fifth player to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year, joining Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, and Gene Sarazen.
It will be impossible to overlook him now, not with the Wanamaker Trophy to go with his back-to-back U.S. Open titles.
Koepka won two of the three majors he played this year, and three of his last six. Not since Woods won four in a row through the 2001 Masters has anyone won majors at such an alarming rate.
He also joined Jordan Spieth, Woods, Nicklaus, and Tom Watson as the only players with three majors before turning 30 since World War II.
“Three majors at 28, it’s a cool feeling,” said Koepka, who five years ago was toiling in Europe’s minor leagues.
And yet it still felt–and certainly sounded–as though he played second billing to Woods.
The crowd was enormous, louder than anything in golf this side of Augusta National or a Ryder Cup, and Woods looked closer than ever to capping his comeback from four back surgeries with another major.
Even with two bogeys, Woods shot 64 for his lowest final round in a major. He finished at 266, beating by three shots his best 72-hole score in a major.
At this major, it wasn’t enough.
“I played hard,” Woods said. “I made a bit of a run.
“It looks like I’m going to come up a little short.”
Scott hung around by making big putts, just like he hoped, and was tied for the lead until Koepka’s birdies.
He missed a six-foot birdie putt on the par-five 17th that would have pulled him to within one shot–right after Koepka had missed from the same range–and then made bogey on the 18th for a 67 to finish alone in third.
Koepka, meanwhile, 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 then 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.
The only downer is having to wait eight months for the Masters.