PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka dialed up seven birdies and slammed the door on playing partner Viktor Hovland to win the PGA Championship on Sunday at Oak Hill Country Club, securing his fifth career major title and the first by an active member of LIV Golf.
Koepka stuck his approach at the last hole pin-high and received an ovation as he ascended to the green. He pumped his fist and embraced his caddie after a final-round, 3-under 67, finishing at 9-under 271 for the week.
Koepka won the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens and the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championships and battled knee and hip injuries for some time after that. With his fifth major, he surpassed Rory McIlroy, Ernie Els and other greats while tying the likes of Byron Nelson and Seve Ballesteros.
“This one is definitely special,” Koepka said. “I think this one is probably the most meaningful of them all with everything that’s gone on, all the crazy stuff over the last few years. But it feels good to be back and to get No. 5.”
Koepka finished the job Sunday after squandering a 54-hole lead at the Masters last month and tied for second.
“I’ve always learned more from the four times I finished second (in a major) than the five times I’ve won now,” Koepka said. “I think failure is how you learn. You get better from it. You realize what mistakes you’ve made. Each time I’ve kind of made an adjustment. It’s more mentality than it is anything.”
Hovland, the 25-year-old Norwegian, made a long birdie at No. 18 for a 68 to tie Scottie Scheffler for second at 7-under 273. It was his best result at a major and his third straight top-10 finish.
Trailing by one at the 16th hole, Hovland attempted to get out of a fairway bunker and his ball embedded in the face of the bunker in front of him — the same misfortune that befell Corey Conners of Canada when he led the championship Saturday evening. Hovland was given free relief but had to punch out of the rough.
Koepka then took aim at the 16th pin and left himself just 5 feet for the birdie that clinched the title. Hovland made double bogey, a three-stroke swing on the hole.
“It’s not easy going toe to toe with a guy like that,” Hovland said. “He is not going to give you anything, and I didn’t really feel like I gave him anything either until 16. So I feel like I belong out here, and I just have got to get a little bit better, and hopefully it goes my way the next time.”
After steady rain turned Friday afternoon and Saturday into a slog, players and fans enjoyed perfect weather Sunday, leaving the course ripe for lower scores. No one had shot better than 66 through three rounds, but Scheffler, Australians Cam Davis and Cameron Smith, Kurt Kitayama and Austria’s Sepp Straka all posted 5-under 65 on Sunday.
“With the softening up, with some of the doglegs you don’t just run through, it’s easier to hit the fairway,” Kitayama said. “You felt like you could probably attack a little more today.”
Davis, Kitayama and Bryson DeChambeau (70) tied for fourth at 3-under 277. Straka finished tied for seventh at 2 under with Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who shot his third straight 69. Smith, Patrick Cantlay (66) and Englishman Justin Rose (71) tied for ninth at 1 under.
Koepka looked poised to run away with the championship when he birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 4. His approach at the second left him just 4 1/2 feet, and his tee shot at the par-3 third stopped 4 feet away.
Hovland missed a short birdie try at No. 2 and fell three strokes behind after the third. But he birdied the fifth and Koepka sliced his tee shot at the sixth en route to a bogey. Both bogeyed the difficult seventh hole.
“Wish I would have made a couple more putts earlier,” Hovland said. “Felt like I played really solid golf. I gave myself a lot of looks. When I was out of position, I made some great short game shots and got out of there with a par, but Brooks was hard to catch.”
Koepka got back on the birdie train at No. 10, and after lipping out for par at the 11th he had a bounce-back birdie at No. 12. Hovland drained a 10-foot birdie at the par-5 13th to get within one at 7 under.
At the short par-4 14th called “Bunker Hill,” Koepka landed his drive on the green before it rolled to the first cut. Hovland birdied the hole to draw even, but Koepka calmly answered with birdie to move to 9 under.
Koepka left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf in the summer of 2022. The Saudi-funded breakaway league landed more star players than initially expected, Koepka among them, and the major title could serve to validate LIV as it fails to garner TV ratings.
“I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “Yeah, it’s a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time I’m out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship.”
World No. 2 Scheffler opened with six straight pars before making his move. The 26-year-old finished with a 4-under 31 on the back nine to score his eighth top-10 finish at a major, all since 2020.
Michael Block, the club professional who entered the day six back after three even-par rounds of 70, punctuated his week with a dramatic hole-in-one at the par-3 15th that flew straight into the hole without a bounce. He carded a 71 and tied for 15th, which earned him an exemption into next year’s PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
Koepka met up with Block ahead of their dual trophy ceremony — the Wanamaker Trophy for Koepka, low club professional honors for Block.
“I heard you’re buying drinks,” Koepka said.
–By Adam Zielonka, Field Level Media