2023 PGA Championship leaderboard breakdown: Brooks Koepka climbs to top in continued return to form
Koepka tops a star-studded leaderboard after three rounds at Oak Hill
Moving Day at the 2023 PGA Championship began as a slugfest and turned into a shootout as the heavy rains that engulfed Oak Hill Country Club most of the day subsided for the leaders wrapping their third rounds in the early evening. Causing even more separation on the leaderboard, the conditions were there for the picking, and none other than the most dominant major championship performer from the last decade was there to take advantage.
Beginning the day three strokes off the pace set by the three-headed monster atop the leaderboard, Brooks Koepka and his major pedigree was on display as he pulled off a second straight 4-under 66 to storm atop the field on his own entering Sunday's final round. Peppering fairways and greens in regulation, the four-time major champion let those behind him know exactly why he will be on the front of everyone's minds with 18 holes to play.
Two early birdies pulled Koepka within a pair, and despite a hiccup on the seventh, he continued his near-flawless effort into yet another torrid second nine at Oak Hill. Three back-nine birdies could have easily been five, but Koepka will be content with his effort on the inward half as it produced his second consecutive 54-hole lead in a major.
For a man who, alongside LIV Golf star Bryson DeChambeau, was booed when teeing off at No. 1 to start the day, Koepka was clearly more relaxed coming down the stretch as the fans in Rochester serenaded him with cheers. The ovations were deserved, too, as Koepka clearly posted the best round of the day while leaving some of the game's best in his dust.
"I like when it's difficult. Today was super difficult," he said after the round. "It was hot for a minute, it was cold, the wind, the rain. Pretty much had everything going today. Difficult day; I'll take 4 under."
After admitting to not have his best stuff on Thursday, Koepka has certainly had that and more over the last 36 holes as he stands alone at the top of the leaderboard, one stroke clear of his closest challengers.
Here is a full breakdown of the leaderboard from Round 3 of the 2023 PGA Championship.
1. Brooks Koepka (-6): The last two rounds of 66 get all the hype, but it is the resilience in Round 1 that sticks out and shows the the skill Koepka possesses. He ranked 136th in strokes gained approach on Thursday, signed for a 2-over 72 and then got to work. He has improved the last two days both in terms of approach play and putting while the driver and short game has remained steady.
There is nothing to suggest a Sunday mishap is in his future, but major championship Sundays have been somewhat sketchy for the four-time winner since his last victory at this championship four years ago, and his final 18 holes at the 2023 Masters were simply the latest example of his late struggles. "I promise I won't show up like that," said Koepka in reference to his final-round performance in April.
T2. Viktor Hovland, Corey Conners (-5): In every major championship, there is one round that doesn't go your way, and that's what Round 3 felt like for Hovland. He got off to a poor start with a bogey on the first par 5 but battled back strong around the turn. Three birdies from Nos. 8-12 sent him to the top of the leaderboard at 6 under before he dropped a shot on the last. While it wasn't his best effort, it was still a 70 that has him in the final group in the final round for the second time in the last three majors. He will give Koepka everything Brooks can handle as Hovland's iron play has been next level. He has gained roughly 10 strokes on approach through 54 holes.
4. Bryson DeChambeau (-3): The 2020 U.S. Open champion continues to just hang around. He is certainly lurking, and his 70 on Saturday has him in prime position to threaten the leaders. He carded a pair of sixes in Round 3 and will need to be better on par 5s in particular if he is to join Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus in becoming just the third man to win the U.S. Open, U.S. Amateur and PGA Championship.
T5. Scottie Scheffler, Justin Rose (-2): The biggest surprise from Saturday, bar none, was the play of Scheffler. The world No. 2 made just two bogeys in his first 36 holes and matched this total by the time he walked off the second green. He added dropped shots on Nos. 6-7 and would have turned in 40 if not for a nice par conversion on the ninth. The best players just have a way of kind of hanging around even when the game isn't there, and that's exactly what Scheffler did on Saturday. While he would have wished for more, he still has a chance to grab his second major.
7. Rory McIlroy (-1): McIlroy got off to a much better start compared to Round 2, but his 69 ultimately left something to be desired. Two early birdies on the first couple par 3s got the Rochester faithful rocking, but McIlroy fell victim to the difficult closing stretch on the front nine. Three bogeys saw him turn in an over-par fashion, but like he did on Friday, McIlroy found his groove on the back side. Three birdies against one bogey pushed Rory within shouting distance. With a Herculean effort on Sunday -- something we have seen him accomplish plenty of times before while shifting his way into a backdoor top-five finish -- a move to the Wanamaker Trophy is still possible. McIlroy has positioned himself so that such a start would warrant winning consideration, and after his start on Thursday, that's all you can ask.
"I still don't feel like my game is in great shape," said McIlroy. "I've held it together well. I've held some good putts. I've scored well. I probably hit it a little better off the tee today than I did the first couple of days, but I think this tournament and especially in these conditions and on this golf course, the non-physical parts of the game are way more important this week than the physical parts of the game, and I've done those well, and that's the reason that I'm in a decent position."
Rick Gehman is joined by Kyle Porter and Patrick McDonald to break down a wet and eventful moving day at the 2023 PGA Championship. Brooks Koepka makes a move and Viktor Hovland remains near the top of the board. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
T8. Michael Block, Justin Suh (E): Block, the PGA Professional, just won't go away. He opened with a bogey and the collective golf audience envisioned a slow descent on the leaderboard, but Block didn't bat an eye. He came back with a birdie on No. 2, and even though he made a mess of the historically strong sixth, he continued to show resolve. Three back-nine birdies propelled Block to come home in 33 and resulted in his third straight round of even-par 70.
T10. Tommy Fleetwood, Shane Lowry and four others (+1): If there was one person who was hurt by the cadence of the conditions, it was Fleetwood. The Englishman signed for a stellar 68 in the worst of it and made his way inside the top 10. Fleetwood has his fair share of experience not only in major championships but major championships in New York. At the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, Fleetwood fired a final round 7-under 63 to finish runner up. He may need something similar tomorrow.
"It was just relentless really from the start of the warmup to literally as we were putting out on the last green," said Fleetwood. "There was very little wind, but that doesn't stop it playing cold and long and wet, and I definitely started off really well, played great golf early on, but just as the round goes on, it just turns into a bit more survival."
T42. Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and eight others (+6): The world No. 1 experienced an up-and-down day in Round 3. Rahm kicked things off with five front-nine bogeys before eviscerating a boom microphone, scolding a cameraman and getting yet another generous temporary immovable object (TIO) relief. He added a sixth dropped shot on the 10th and then started to go to work on the accessible portion of Oak Hill. Three birdies over the course of his final six holes made lunch taste sweeter and got him back to where he was following his opening 76.
T67. Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas and two others (+10): Mickelson's weekend appearance marks his 100th made cut in major championship history. To put this in perspective, there are only four major championships a year and Mickelson hasn't made every single cut over the last 25 years. While he will not replicate his runner-up result from the Masters, Mickelson should take solace in his longevity and consistency on golf's biggest stage since the mid 1990s.
"It shows that I've had a lot of great experiences in the game of golf and that I've had a lot of great years and opportunities and I guess life experiences; playing in these tournaments is something I'm very appreciative of," said Mickelson. "It just shows how old I am, I guess, and how many years I've been playing. But it's been really fun to participate in so many great events and play well in them."
Koepka cards another 66
Wow. That was something. Koepka is likely to have another 54-hole lead in a major championship as Corey Conners had just made a mess of the 16th and dropped to 5 under.
KOEPKA CONNECTS FROM DISTANCE
Ruh roh Shaggy. Brooks Koepka holes a birdie from outside 40 feet to get to 6 under and just one behind Corey Conners. After letting two birdie bids slip by, the four-time major champion converts a big one.
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