|Brooks Koepka held off superb challenges from Tiger Woods and Adam Scott to clinch the PGA Championship title after a pulsating final day of the major season. — Photo skysports.com|
ST. LOUIS — Two-time US Open champion Brooks Koepka teed off in quest of his third major victory in Sunday’s final round of the 100th PGA Championship with Tiger Woods in the title hunt.
Fourth-ranked Koepka, who matched the tournament record with a seven-under v63 on Friday, fired a 66 Saturday to lead on 12-under 198 after 54 holes, two strokes ahead of Australia’s Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion and his partner in the final pairing.
Six other major winners, including 14-time major champion Woods, lurked within three strokes after an early birdie as an afternoon shootout began to unfold at Bellerive Country Club.
"Everyone is going to have to shoot low rounds," Woods said. "It’s soft.
It’s gettable and you can’t just go out there and make a bunch of pars. You’re going to have to make some birdies."
There were signs low scoring was ripe for the taking with Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and England’s Tyrrell Hatton both five-under for the day after 14 holes.
Koepka, who missed the Masters with a left wrist injury, is confident entering Sunday’s showdown for the Wanamaker Trophy and a top prize of US$1.98 million (1.73 million euros).
"I’m just focused on me. I feel like, if I do what I’m supposed to, I should win the golf tournament," Koepka said.
The 28-year-old American became the first golfer since Curtis Strange in 1989 to win consecutive US Open crowns in June when he defended the title at Shinnecock.
Woods makes fast start
Woods, in the eighth month of his comeback from spinal fusion surgery after years of back injuries, began four back. He has never won a major when not leading after 54 holes.
Woods lipped out on a seven-foot birdie putt on the opening hole but sank a four-footer for birdie at the second to reach nine-under, three off the lead.
Other contending major winners include 2009 British Open winner Stewart Cink, 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day of Australia, second-ranked defending champion Justin Thomas and 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel of South Africa.
Woods has not won a major title since the 2008 US Open and has not won any event in five years. With a victory, Woods would match Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen with a record five PGA titles and qualify to play in next month’s Ryder Cup in France.
A trio of players seeking a first major title shared third on 201,including Americans Rickie Fowler and Gary Woodland and Spaniard Jon Rahm.
Fowler and Players Championship winner Webb Simpson were among the leaders as they fought to maintain positions on the Ryder Cup team on the final day of qualifying for eight berths on points.
Scott and Day have special inspiration this week after the death of Jarrod Lyle, the Aussie golfer who died on Wednesday of leukemia at age 36. He had battled cancer for years, twice having thought it gone only to have it return.
Three-time major winner Jordan Spieth, needing only the PGA to complete a career Grand Slam, opened birdie-birdie but took a double bogey at the par-3 sixth then followed that with three consecutive birdies. — AFP