Brooks Koepka has won the 2019 PGA Championship. It looked probable after Thursday, likely after Friday, and inevitable after Saturday. Sunday still managed to bring a little drama, but, in the end, it was the result we all figured was coming. Brooks has been the best player in majors the last two years, and it’s really not close. He’s won four in the last 23 months, with back-to-back US Open titles and now back-to-back PGA Championships. He’ll have a chance for a US Open three-peat next month at Pebble Beach.
Koepka started the week on a tear, shooting a bogey-free 7-under 63 on Thursday to jump out to an early lead. The surprise of that day was Danny Lee. The 28 year-old from New Zealand managed to keep pace with Brooks, shooting a 64. A whole lot of firepower bunched up behind them, with the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Speith, Jason Day, and Rickie Fowler all shooting 69 in the opening round.
Lower scores abounded on Friday, as Adam Scott paced the field with a 64. DJ, Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose, and Harold Varner III all came around at 67. It wasn’t enough for anyone to catch Brooks, though, as he followed up one nearly perfect round with another, shooting a ridiculous 65. He opened up a seven shot lead heading into the weekend and already seemed to kind of be on cruise control.
The tournament wasn’t without it’s teeth. Many top stars struggled to figure out the Black course at Bethpage State Park. Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambaeu, Sergio Garcia, and Ian Poulter were just a few to miss the cut. That list also included Tiger Woods, who hadn’t played competitive golf since winning The Masters last month. Without the most popular player in the game and Brooks having a seemingly insurmountable lead, the weekend felt like it was just a waiting game.
Saturday, the day dubbed “moving day” in so many other majors, saw a surprising amount of stagnation. Brooks, going into the day holding a 7 shot lead, left with the same cushion and everyone asking, “How much will he win by?” There was a feeling of certainty, like Koepka was a machine built for this.
If Saturday was good for something, it was the arrival of Jazz Janewattananond of Thailand. In only his second major, the young man played well enough all week to get himself into the top-10 after going 70-68-67 the first three days. His story took an interesting turn a few years ago, though.
That’s right. Three years ago, he completely walked away from the game. He’s since credited the experience with helping him see an upturn in his game.
Sunday seemed like Brooks should have to play his own ball, and every other group should play best ball to try and keep up. Bethpage (and Mother Nature) had a different plan. The wind, which had been more of a minor inconvenience the first the days, decided Sunday was the day to make itself known. Blowing consistently at 15 mph, with gusts nearing 30, the already narrow fairways became like single-lane roads.
Dustin Johnson provided some fireworks, going out on the front nine and shooting 3-under, closing the gap to four shots. Brooks got around in an even-par 35, and you could feel the momentum shift. DJ has always been a favorite with fans. Once they locked on to the underdog making a comeback, they made their feelings known. Every good shot from DJ sent a roar back down to the previous hole. Every missed green from Brooks, the jeers started getting louder. After a stretch of four straight bogeys, there was a moment on 14 where you could see it. Brooks was #shook. His normally stoic face showed some cracks. His usually solid all-around game started to break down.
Meanwhile, Dustin ground out three pars and a birdie to get himself to -8, only one shot back. He had the crowd on his side, and seemed to have everything going his way. Until it wasn’t. Back-to-back bogeys on 16 and 17 took all the air out of his comeback. A par at 18 and he was in the clubhouse trailing by 3 strokes. Even with a bogey from Brooks on 17, and Koepka had a two-stroke lead on 18 tee. He managed to par, and walk off the course a champion. His fourth major in two years, a run we haven’t seen since the prime Tiger years. Brooks also took over the title of #1 golfer in the world, edging past his friend Dustin Johnson.
The first three days of this tournament showed Brooks has all of the skill needed to be the best player on the planet. Sunday showed, even after an extended rough patch, he has the grit to hold on while facing a charge from some of the best in the world. Next month, Brooks has the chance to go for three straight US Open victories. That’s something that hasn’t happened since Willie Anderson from 1903-1905. Will Brooks continue his stellar major run? Will we see another new winner, as we have in 9 of the last 14? Will Phil Mickelson finally end his US Open heartbreak?
All we can do for now is bask in the glow of another (mostly) dominant Brooks Koepka performance.