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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Koepka Triumphs in P.G.A. Championship, Overcoming Challenges and Elevating LIV

A week and a half ago on Sunday, Brooks Koepka did not get any shut-eye. He needed time alone for brooding and chasing demons. Despite a horrific knee injury, the anguish of unrealized ambition, the insults, and the splenetic schism in professional golf that he helped personify, he fought to the lead at the Masters Tournament before ultimately falling short. In a word, it collapsed.

At the conclusion of the day, he pledged to himself at Oak Hill Country Club that he would never again “think the way I thought going into the final round.” On Sunday night, Koepka received his just desserts, winning the P.G.A. Championship by two strokes and bringing home his first major championship trophy since 2019. Koepka joined the likes of Seve Ballesteros and Byron Nelson as the only golfers to win five major championships throughout their careers.

He began to suspect that he was virtually healed by year’s end and that he would once again be in the spotlight. He claims he knew for sure somewhere in January.

Thursday morning, the idea that Koepka might endure such a dense concentration of stars seemed more implausible than feasible. He said that he was feeling off and unable to hit the ball as well as he would have liked in the first round of this competition, shooting a two-over par 72. He said that he had never struck that badly before.

Koepka had a one-stroke lead as he stood on the first tee box, and he doubled that advantage with a birdie at the second hole. For the first three days, he had played the hole at par, reaching the green in two strokes but leaving himself with lengthy putts. With the pin placed front right on the green on Sunday, he needed fewer than 5 feet to make par.

After hitting his longest tee shot of the game on the hole known as Vista, he needed even less time to sink his birdie putt and increase his lead to three strokes.

The sixth hole, which had plagued so many golfers all day, was approaching. Koepka did well enough on the hole Thursday through Saturday, shooting par each day, despite the fact that the field as a whole completed it in an average of 4.52 strokes. On Sunday, though, he sent his tee shot soaring straight into the dense grass of the so-called native region. After taking a drop, he hit the ball onto the green from around 191 yards away, saving bogey. Despite Koepka’s double bogey at No. 2, Hovland also had one at No. 7.

At the turn, Koepka had a one-stroke lead over Hovland. Scheffler, a quiet phenomenon since his Masters victory last year, and Bryson DeChambeau, the defending U.S. Open champion, were tied for third place, three strokes behind.

Birdie, bogey, birdie was Koepka’s enticing response. Hovland was within 15 feet of the cup on the 12th hole, but his tap-in attempt for birdie missed to the left. After completing six holes, Koepka’s lead was restored to two shots. Two holes were eventually reduced to one.

However, there comes a time when one guy seems destined to win every major. Even though the final scores aren’t in, everyone knows the tournament is over long before it concludes.

That happened at the 16th hole on Sunday. It had not been the worst thing that could have happened at Oak Hill. However, Hovland will not forget this.

After hitting his tee shot into a bunker, he pulled out a 9-iron to retrieve his ball. Only 175 yards out from the hole, he swung and missed the green entirely, sending his ball careening over the lip of a bunker. On his fourth try, he hit the green. He made a double bogey after missing a bogey putt. In the final round of the P.G.A. Championship, Koepka shot a birdie to take a four-stroke lead and win for the third time.

He had two shots left as he reached the par-497 18th hole on Sunday. His tee shot travelled 318 yards before crashing into the fairway. Tall grandstands and galleries along the fairway waited in the background, everyone curious to learn whether or not Koepka had returned.

The next time he hit the ball, it landed on the green. The ovation was becoming louder with each step Koepka took up the steep hill, which had previously seemed like climbing Everest to him. He got down on one knee, saying there were periods when he couldn’t even crouch down. He collected himself and advanced the ball with a touch.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O'Brien
I am a journalist for The National Era with an emphasis in sports.
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