Koepka survives mini-collapse to win back-to-back PGA titles

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Brooks Koepka plays from the rough on the 13th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bethpage State Park, NEW YORK. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
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Brooks Koepka celebrates after winning the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 21 May 2019

Koepka survives mini-collapse to win back-to-back PGA titles

  • Koepka almost squandered his seven-shot lead in final round
  • Aside from defending his title, he also displaced Dustin Johnson as world No. 1 

NEW YORK: A coronation almost turned into a calamity but Brooks Koepka survived to win the PGA Championship for a second consecutive year on Sunday and establish himself as golf’s new top dog.

The American, who had held a seven-stroke lead at the start of the final round, almost lost control of the title when he made four successive bogeys from the 11th hole before staving off Dustin Johnson for a two-stroke victory at Bethpage Black.

Koepka shot a 4-over par 74 to finish at eight-under 272 and captured his fourth major title in his last eight starts in grand slam events.

Johnson (69) was second on 6-under, with Americans Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay and Britain’s Matt Wallace four strokes further back tied for third.

What had seemed for much of the tournament to be a coronation almost became a calamity on Sunday, to the delight of most of the raucous New York gallery, who were openly cheering against Koepka as he walked off the 14th green with a tenuous one-stroke lead.

He has played with a chip on his shoulder his entire career, and hearing chants in his face of “D.J., D.J.” only served to fire him up as he walked down the steep hill and across Round Swamp Road to the 15th tee at Bethpage Black.

Johnson was playing the adjacent 16th hole when the chants went up after Koepka’s mini-collapse.

“I wasn’t nervous. I was just in shock at what was going on,” Koepka said. “When they started chanting D.J. on 14, it actually kind of helped.

“That was probably the best thing that could have happened ... helped me refocus and hit a good one down 15.”

Koepka’s playing companion Harold Varner III, however, was annoyed by the crowd reaction.

“I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke,” Varner said.

“That’s not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that. I have a few choice words for that. Just cheering for him to do bad, I just don’t get that.”

Johnson, however, subsequently bogeyed the 16th after misjudging his approach shot in the strong and gusty winds and the lead was back up to two strokes.

In becoming the first champion to lead wire-to-wire since Hal Sutton in 1983, Koepka successfully defended his title and also displaced Johnson as world No. 1 

Koepka, who also won back-to-back US Open titles in 2017-18, admitted his run of bogeys had put him under pressure.

“Tell you what, the hour spent from No. 11 to 14 was interesting,” Koepka said. “I just got stuck in a bogey train. I just made mistakes at the wrong time.

“You’ve got to hit good drives and I put it in the rough. I challenge anyone to play this course in 15-to 20 miles-per-hour winds and see what they shoot.

“Today was definitely the most satisfying out of all of them for how stressful that round was, how stressful D.J. made it.”

“I know for a fact, that was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life ... on 18.”


Kimmich: Bayern need to stay ‘hungry’ for Champions League bid

Updated 09 July 2020

Kimmich: Bayern need to stay ‘hungry’ for Champions League bid

  • Under head coach Flick, Bayern have won all 11 games since the season resumed in mid-May

BERLIN: Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich says the double-winning German champions must stay “fully focused and greedy” for more silverware during their two-week holiday before launching their assault on the Champions League.

“Now it’s time to recharge our batteries and then tackle the Champions League with full focus and greed,” the 25-year-old told magazine Sport Bild.

Head coach Hans-Dieter Flick sent Bayern on a two-week holiday after winning the German Cup last Saturday before fine-tuning their preparations for the Champions League.

After completing the double with a 4-2 cup final win over Leverkusen, Bundesliga champions Bayern are on a 17-match winning streak dating back to February.

Under Flick, Bayern have won all 11 games since the season resumed in Germany in mid-May amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bayern are chasing a treble and are among the favorites in Europe after routing Chelsea 3-0 in London in the last 16, first leg, last February before the Champions League halted due to COVID-19.

Bayern still need to finish the tie to reach the quarterfinals and the draw for the remaining rounds in the knockout stages takes place this Friday. Kimmich called on his teammates to keep training during their break to maintain the “hunger” for the Champions League finals in Lisbon next month.

“It will be decisive how we return from vacation: We want to keep that feeling, that hunger,” Kimmich added.

Having stumbled last November, when Flick succeeded Niko Kovac who was sacked following a 5-1 thrashing by Frankfurt, Bayern are now in great form.

Robert Lewandowski has scored 51 goals this season, including 34 in the Bundesliga and is the Champions League’s top-scorer with 11.

Behind the Poland striker, Thomas Mueller has 25 assists, including a record 21 in the Bundesliga.

Kimmich has bossed the defensive midfield alongside Germany teammate Leon Goretzka and suggests Bayern have developed a mental edge.

“In the last two seasons, mentality has been the most important factor in winning the German league title,” said Kimmich.

“FC Bayern may be ahead of other teams in this respect.”