Brooks Koepka promised Sunday at Oak Hill would not be a reprise of Sunday at Augusta National.
Koepka held true to his word, shooting 3-under 67 to win the PGA Championship, finishing at 9 under, two in front of Scottie Scheffler (65) and Viktor Hovland (68).
Koepka and Hovland, playing together in the final pairing, were separated by one stroke at the par-4 16th, when Hovland hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker on the right. The previous day, leader Corey Conners was in the same spot and drilled his approach into the face of the bunker. He had to take an unplayable lie and made double bogey, losing the lead for good.
Incredibly, Hovland did the same thing on Sunday, losing any chance he had at his first major title.
Koepka, for his part, birdied the 16th and led by four shots with two to play. He closed with an innocuous bogey at the 17th and a par at the 18th.
This was Kopeka’s fifth major championship win and his third Wanamaker Trophy (2018, ’19). He joined James Braid, John Henry Taylor, Byron Nelson, Peter Thomson and Seve Ballesteros at 15th on the all-time major-victory list.
It marked his ninth career PGA Tour title and first since February 2021.
It was in that same month, a year later, that Koepka made clear his intention to remain on the PGA Tour, saying of the fledgling Saudi-led rival league, “They’ll get their guys. Somebody will sell out and go to it.”
Four months later, Koepka was one of those guys.
Koepka claimed his first of two LIV titles in October and the second in April, the week before the Masters Tournament. It was in the season’s first major where Koepka led by two shots entering the final round (after completing a delayed Round 3 early that Sunday) but closed in 75 to finish T-2 behind Jon Rahm.
This Saturday, once again with a lead through 54 holes of a major, Koepka was confident – though, coy with his reasons why – that this championship would end differently.
Or, similarly, to that of Bellerive and Bethpage Black.
It appeared that the 105th edition of the PGA was over 45 minutes after the final group teed off in the final round.
Koepka birdied three of his first four holes and led by three shots.
He was perfection personified, expertly positioning his tee shots and precisely hitting his irons. But a sliced drive off the sixth tee led to bogey and he made another at the seventh. By the turn, he was at 7 under par, one clear of Hovland with Scheffler at 4 under through 11 holes.
Scheffler managed to reach 7 under par for the championship, but never got closer than within two strokes.
It was ultimately a battle between the final two men on the course, with Koepka consistently managed to stay out front. He went birdie-bogey-birdie to start the inward half as Hovland strung together a trio of pars. The Norwegian birdied the par-5 13th and could have drawn even, but Koepka converted a slick, downhill, 10-footer for par to remain one up.
Both men made birdie at the drivable, 320-yard, par-4 14th and both men parred 15.
Then came the 16th, where Hovland thinned his second shot from the fairway sand into the bottom portion of the bunker lip. His ball embedded, Hovland took a penalty stroke and a drop. His double bogey, combined with Koepka’s birdie, ended all of the drama.
But Oak Hill was not devoid of cheers Sunday evening. Club pro Michael Block, playing alongside Rory McIlroy, had a slam-dunk hole-in-one at the par-3 15th and then made an incredible par save from well left of the 18th green. His closing 1-over 71 placed him in a tie for 15th and earned him a spot in next year’s field at Valhalla.
The last time the Louisville, Kentucky course hosted a PGA, McIlroy claimed his second Wanamaker Trophy and his fourth – and most recent – major. The Northern Irishman energized the western New York crowd this Sunday by sticking his approach shot at the first hole to a foot. The birdie got him within four of the lead, but he short-sided himself – from the fairway – at No. 2 and immediately gave the shot back. McIlroy shot 1-under 69 and tied for seventh.
While his major wait will extend to Los Angeles Country Club in June, Koepka will arrive looking for a third U.S. Open title.
And after his performances in the first two majors of the season, he will likely be the favorite.