fbpx

Koepka maintains seven-stroke lead at PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka hasn’t been accused of doing anything fancy on the golf course.

In his position, now isn’t the time for that, either.

Koepka kept a steady hand on the lead in the PGA Championship by shooting even-par 70 in the third round Saturday at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y.

“Even par is a good score, anywhere you put it,” Koepka said. “You just have to try to battle it out and put yourself in the best position possible.”

That left him at 12-under 198 for the tournament, holding a seven-shot advantage as he goes for a repeat of the title in Sunday’s final round.

In his mind, there’s no doubt he’ll be the victor, after winning the Wanamaker Trophy at Bellerive last year.

“It’s just focus,” he said. “It’s grind it out, suck it up, and move on.”

After his lead dipped to five strokes, Koepka birdied the par-5 13th to answer, and he is leaving few questions this weekend.

The final rounds of the tournament already lacked some buzz with Masters champion Tiger Woods missing the cut. There wasn’t a golfer showing the capability of making a sustained charge.

Koepka’s two-round total of 12 under set a record for any major, also giving him a seven-stroke lead, which he maintained through 54 holes.

He wouldn’t mind seeing a larger margin, but Koepka is aware of the situation.

“I’d like to see that lead grow as large as it possibly can,” he said. “ I still have to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do, keep putting the ball in the right spot and make sure that you don’t make any double-bogeys, and I should have a good chance of winning the championship.”

Dustin Johnson (69) is tied with three others at 5 under. Johnson took a bogey on No. 18.

Luke List (69) had bogeys on the last two holes, dipping to 5 under and into a second-place tie with Johnson, Harold Varner III (67) and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond (67), who tied for the low round of the day.

Varner is thrilled to be so high on the leaderboard.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be a great day no matter what happens. This is what you practice for, and obviously I’m super excited. Just need to go home and eat and do it again. I’m super excited for the opportunity.”

Varner said there’s no sense looking at the margin of Koepka’s lead.

“My goal is to hit the fairway on No. 1 and start from there,” Varner said. “Pretty simple. You know, life’s hard. This is easy.”

List hasn’t given up hope either.

“I have to go play my game,” List said. “Obviously, Brooks is playing tremendous golf, and who knows what could happen. Some majors in history show some big leads, guys come back from. But hopefully this is one of them.

“… We have a lot to play for every week on Sunday, so it’s no exception. The more I treat it like a normal event for me, the better.”

Jordan Spieth, who played in the final pairing with Koepka, shot 72 and is tied for eighth at 3 under. He shot 38 on the front after double-bogeying No. 9.

Koepka made it clear early he wasn’t about to fade. He posted a birdie on the second hole, then dropped an approach on the fifth hole — which has played as one of the most difficult on the course — just a few feet from the pin for what became another birdie, reaching 14 under.

But consecutive bogeys on Nos. 9 and 10 put a halt to the momentum.

Yet none of the other golfers made a sustained run. Janewattananond, Johnson and List all popped into second place at times.

Johnson played the front side in 3 under, then had four bogeys in a 2-over backside.

List played a nine-hole stretch in 4 under before his late-round troubles. He recorded three consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-14 as part of his temporary charge.

Others in the field are taking note of what Koepka is accomplishing.

“He’s playing some remarkable golf,” said Phil Mickelson, who is 6 over for the tournament and tied for 58th after Saturday’s 76. “ It’s not easy. It’s really not an easy test.”

Of the 82 golfers who made the cut, only 17 shot under par in the third round.

–Field Level Media (@FieldLevelMedia)