Rory McIlroy salutes LIV golfer Brooks Koepka as he wins fifth major
"I look back at where we were two years ago – everything that has gone on – I’m just so happy right now.” – Brooks Koepka
Six weeks after feeling he “choked” in the final round of the Masters, Brooks Koepka held his nerve to overcome a spirited challenge from Viktor Hovland to win the US PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
Koepka carded a closing 67 to finish nine under par and claim his third US PGA title, his fifth major overall and the first for a player on the Saudi-funded LIV Golf League.
Hovland traded blows with Koepka until a costly double bogey on the 16th, but a birdie on the 18th deservedly gave the Norwegian a share of second place with Scottie Scheffler on seven under.
Koepka took a one-shot lead over Hovland and Corey Conners into the final round, having enjoyed double that advantage following 54 holes of the Masters in April.
The 33-year-old carded a closing 75 at Augusta National to finish second to Jon Rahm and felt he had choked under pressure, but exorcised those demons at the first opportunity.
"This is incredible. This is wild,” said Koepka.
"I look back at where we were two years ago – everything that has gone on – I’m just so happy right now. I’m kind of at a loss for words – this is the coolest thing.
"I don’t know the list of guys who have won five majors, but to be among that list of names, it’s incredible."
The former world number one made a flying start with a hat-trick of birdies from the second and was momentarily four shots clear before Hovland matched his birdie on the fourth.
Hovland also birdied the fifth to close the gap and was within a single stroke when Koepka pushed his drive on the sixth into Allen’s Creek and was unable to save par.
Koepka doubled his lead with a birdie on the 10th, only to then see his approach to the next plug in a greenside bunker.
After blasting out to 12 feet, Koepka saw his par attempt lip out and although he bounced back immediately to birdie the 12th, he could not shake off a resolute Hovland.
The 25-year-old, who was in contention for the third consecutive major, took advantage of the par-five 13th to keep the pressure firmly on and both men birdied the short 14th to effectively turn it into a two-horse race.
However, in a carbon copy of what happened to Conners in round three, Hovland drilled his second shot into the face of a fairway bunker on the 16th to run up a double bogey.
Koepka’s birdie gave him a four-shot lead and he could afford to bogey the 17th and par the last to complete an impressive victory.
Scheffler had got within two of the lead thanks to birdies on the 10th, 13th and 14th, but had to wait until the 18th to pick up another shot and complete a superb 65.
McIlroy has been an outspoken critic of players who quit the PGA Tour to join the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf league, but he gave Koepka a warm embrace after his win and declared: “I’m so happy for you.”
McIlroy finished on two under par, seven shots off the winning total and admits he need to improve to end his nine-year major drought.
"I think my game got a little better each day. It definitely progressed. I feel sort of close but I also feel so far away at the same time - it's a weird feeling,” he told Sky Sports.
"I know I need to be better especially in these major championships. I need to keep those black numbers off the cards and especially from those positions I was in as well.
"The good stuff is in there. the bad stuff needs needs to be be eradicated a little bit and I need to work on it."
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