PITTSFORD, N.Y. — On one of the biggest stages in golf, a weekend round at a major, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau were paired together.
It was a scenario golf nuts were clamoring for just two years ago. Koepka and DeChambeau had developed bad blood, featuring back-and-forth comments and viral sideways glances, and a rivalry festered between the two major champions.
Those were the days before both golfers left the PGA Tour to join the rival LIV Golf league. While they aren’t on the same team in LIV, Koepka and DeChambeau landed on the same side of a larger feud, their personal rivalry officially a thing of the past.
Koepka fired a 66 on Saturday to take the lead at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club. DeChambeau settled for a 70 and will enter the final round in fourth place at 3 under, three behind Koepka’s 6 under.
In February, Koepka said on an Instagram live stream that he and DeChambeau “squashed” their rivalry after talking things out. DeChambeau confirmed as much after his round Saturday.
“I think we have a common goal, growth of the game,” DeChambeau said. “We have franchises to focus on now and also good golf to play.”
Koepka said he isn’t much of a talker while playing a round, even less so at a major. But he said he “loved” his pairing Saturday and apparently thrived off it.
“I mean, I shot 4 under, so you tell me,” Koepka said.
Both players were lustily booed at the first tee, likely a reaction to their allegiance to the Saudi-funded LIV league.
“It’s New York, and I expect it here, I appreciate the fans, them doing that to me,” DeChambeau said. “It’s like, OK, cool, no problem. I’ve got no problem either way.”
–It may not fall in line with standard country club etiquette, but backwards hats were all the rage during the rainiest parts of Saturday afternoon at Oak Hill.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, playing early Friday morning, was the first to turn his cap around. Adam Scott of Australia, Max Homa, Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Scottie Scheffler followed.
The simple reason why: The rain became so heavy that if golfers kept their hats on straight while standing above putts, drops would likely trickle off the brim.
Practical use aside, McIlroy’s backwards hat may have symbolized a looser approach to the game. He said after Friday’s second round that he was feeling “terribly” standing over the ball while having trouble with his driver. The four-time major champ shot 69 both days but had a better outlook Saturday.
“It’s funny. I was a little more accepting of the ball going in the rough today, and I actually hit more fairways because of it,” McIlroy said. “Again, it just goes to show if you have a little more of a carefree attitude, it seems to work out a little bit better.”
–The video went viral early Saturday afternoon: Lee Hodges’ par putt at the 17th hole came to rest on the edge of the cup, so close to dropping that Hodges decided to wait it out.
The ball hung there until, in dramatic fashion, it started wavering and finally dropped in, ending a 34-second odyssey.
Hodges’ celebration was short-lived. He was assessed a one-stroke penalty and given a bogey on the hole for a “Ball Overhanging Hole” violation.
Per the rules of golf, players are allowed “a reasonable time” to walk to the hole, at which point they can wait 10 more seconds for their ball to drop.
“If the ball does not fall into the hole in this waiting time: The ball is treated as being at rest,” Rule 13.3 says. “If the ball then falls into the hole before it is played, the player has holed out with the previous stroke, but gets one penalty stroke added to the score for the hole.”
Hodges’ 74 became a 75, and he was 10 over par through three rounds.
–By Adam Zielonka, Field Level Media