2018 PGA Championship scores: Brooks Koepka bullies his way into lead with history on the line
Can the 28-year-old American join a list that includes just 45 other men?
ST. LOUIS -- Brooks Koepka looked ready to end the 2018 PGA Championship as he shot a 5-under 30 on the front nine in the third round on Saturday and took a four-stroke lead on the best field in golf. A back-nine 36 for a 4-under 66 drew everyone back into his sphere, but Koepka still has a two-stroke lead on Adam Scott and three on the trio of Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Gary Woodland going into the final round.
Koepka, his biceps peering out like pillars from underneath the inadequate canopy of his ill-fitting Nike shirt, decimated the front side of the golf course on Saturday. Six drives of 300 or more yards led to four birdie putts from 11 feet and in. Koepka's mammoth size belies his touch, which leads to what we've gotten so far this week -- a golfer who leads the field in driving distance but is also top 10 in putting.
Nevertheless, this is golf, and golf always reminds you that no man is bigger than or outside the bounds of the game. Koepka's round (and the tournament itself) nearly got away from him starting with a bogey at No. 14. Another at No. 15 led to a poor chip at the par-3 16th, and he stared into the jowls of three consecutive bogeys. However, he put that 10-footer right in the heart, narrowly missed an eagle at the 17th and closed in a way that made you forget he was ever in trouble at all.
"Obviously, to avoid making three bogeys in a row on 16 was very big," said Koepka. "I want to say it kind of helped me go into 17, relax a little bit, hit that tee shot down the middle of the fairway. And to hit such a good iron shot on 17 kind of gave me a little bit of confidence."
To see Koepka flirt with vaporizing a loaded leaderboard like this one maybe shouldn't be surprising. He's won two straight U.S. Opens, two of the last five majors he's played and has 11 (!) top-15 finishes at major championships since 2014. He is the ultimate big game hunter, and he'll go for his third major win in his last six starts on Sunday.
Perhaps more astonishing than all of those numbers is the fact that Koepka only has one other win outside of the majors. Thats probably another story for a different time, but it warrants mentioning that we're looking at a scenario in which Koepka has four wins, and three of them are majors if he takes the PGA on Sunday.
"I can really tune in in the majors, and I have no idea why," said Koepka. "They really get my attention."
I'm not totally sure what to do with that. Four wins for a 28-year-old is pretty good. Three majors for a 28-year-old is historically flabbergasting. It's territory only Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods have touched in recent memory. Hell, there are only 45 other men in golf history who have won three major championships. Koepka can make it 46 on Sunday.
"I'm just focused on me," said Koepka. "I feel like, if I do what I'm supposed to, I should win the golf tournament. Yeah, there's a lot of star power, and it should be. It's a major championship. You should see the best players in the world come to the top. And that's what you have, and that's what's going to make this event very exciting to watch tomorrow."
No matter how it goes down on Sunday, it's going to feel important. Either somebody is going to run down the mighty man with the feather touch -- which feels improbable with the way he's swinging it -- or we're going to have a three-time major winner devoid of a real category with which to label him. Either narrative is endlessly compelling, and Sundays at major championships are always the best regardless.
An amalgamation of history, tremendous golf and drama -- all of it diced up by a crossroads of sorts for the career arc of so many different players. It's my favorite day of the year, four times a year, and this time for the last time in 2018.
Koepka normally cuts against that commonality. We'll see about this one, though. A two-stroke lead is big, but three majors is a history that's thicker than most. Koepka's sturdy frame seems ready to shoulder the load, but if he falters at all, it should be absolutely bananas at Bellerive with the 100th PGA Championship at stake.
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