Koepka’s huge comeback
Brooks Koepka incredibly returned to the top of the men’s Major championship hill after spending a couple of years in oblivion, by winning the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill to go with his tied 2nd place Masters finish in April. Just as he held the lead at Augusta, starting the final round, Koepka began Sunday at the PGA with a one-shot lead over Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler but this time he quickly extended the lead to three shots with some early birdies. Hovland would fight back to briefly tie Koepka for the lead a couple of times, but a double-bogey on the 16 th put paid to his chances.’
Koepka looked absolutely solid – finishing at 9 under to win by two over Hovland and Scheffler.
Prior to the 2023 Masters, Brooks Koepka had held the 54-hole lead in a major three times and had walked away with the trophy each time. The Masters was the first time he failed to do that, and it haunted him. He said he was up the entire night trying to figure out what went wrong and decided it was his attitude. He vowed to never again “think the way I thought going into the final round.”
In the PGA, Koepka shot a stellar 66 on Saturday in poor weather to take the 54-hole lead and earn his shot at redemption. This time he held off the challenge from Viktor Holland to claim his fifth major title, the most of anyone in the 21st century not named Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson
“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,” Koepka said.
Koepka has dealt with some serious injuries as well as questions over his move to the LIV Golf Tour last year. This win puts all of that to rest and puts him in some pretty elite company as well. He is just the 20th golfer to win five majors and one of only seven players since 1950 to have won five or more men’s majors before turning 34. He’s also only the third player to win three or more PGA Championships in the stroke-play era, joining two guys you may have heard of: Jack Nicklaus (5) and Tiger Woods (4).
His win, the first by a player from the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Tour, also gives the upstart tour a public relations boost and should end the doubts around the ability of LIV golfers to compete in 72-hole events (given that they play only 54-holes events).
Koepka himself was lukewarm about his win being an endorsement for LIV, saying, “Yeah, I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you”
But other LIV golfers were more emphatic.“It validates everything we’ve said from the beginning: That we are competing at the highest level, and we have the ability to win major championships, “ Bryson DeChambeau said.
LIV Golf had four other players in the top 20 as well. DeChambeau tied for fourth at 3 under, Cameron Smith, the reigning British Open Champion, tied for ninth at 1 under and Patrick Reed and Mito Pereira tied for 18th at 2 over.
“We’re still out there,” Smith said. “We haven’t [forgotten]how to play golf. We’re all great golfers out there, and we know what we can do, and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Considering that 3 LIV players were in the top 5 at Augusta, Koepka’s performance puts an end to the argument that the LIV Tour is for a bunch of has-beens and for those like Koepka who some claimed had lost their competitive drive.
Club coach lives Cinderella story
The best story of the week belonged to Michael Block, a 46-year-old club pro from a public course in California. Block, shot 70 in each of the first three rounds and found himself playing with Rory McIlroy in the final round. In the process, he became a crowd favourite.
The New York Times reported that when Block reached the first green in the final round, a fan shouted: “You’re one of us, Michael; we’re with you! And when he made the second of what would be six consecutive pars on the front nine, one fan yelled: “Working man coming through!”
While we fans marvel at the feats performed by the world’s best athletes in every sport, Block was proving that once in a while, us regular folk can do something remarkable too.
On top of the unfolding Cinderella story in the final round, to cap it off, Block scored an incredible Hole in One on the par 3, 15th for an ace. The New York Times reported that the ovation for Block “could be heard roughly 600 yards away near the clubhouse”. Block’s hole in one could go down as the shot of the 21st century so far.
MICHAEL BLOCK JUST DUNKED A HOLE-IN-ONE! pic.twitter.com/Qin8FYXFQV
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 21, 2023
Block himself couldn’t believe what was happening – asking Rory several times if the ball had gone in the hole. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. He would make a remarkable par save on the final hole to finish in a tie for 15th and earned $288,333.33 and an automatic invite to the 2024 PGA Championship. Soon after, Block received an invite from next week’s Tour event in Texas and many more were to follow.
Truly a Cinderella story – the likes of which we may never see again in pro golf.
Hole in one reaction from Michael Block’s home club, Arroyo Trabucho!
— NUCLR GOLF (@NUCLRGOLF) May 21, 2023
World No. 1s (not named Tiger Woods) rarely win majors
Jon Rahm has been the best player in the world for some months now. He has already won four times in 2023, including the Masters, and was the co-favourite at the PGA along with World No. 2 Scottie Scheffler.
Rahm struggled from the start, shooting 76 in the first round, and ended up tying for 50 th . He broke 70 only once this week after shooting in the 60s in seven of his last eight rounds.
The truth is unlike in tennis, World No. 1s (other than Woods) in golf rarely win major championships. Over the last decade, it’s only happened three times. Rory McIlroy was ranked No. 1 when he won the 2014 PGA Championship. The other two occasions came at the Masters: Dustin Johnson in 2020 and Scottie Scheffler in 2022. That’s a winning percentage of less than 10%.
It is strange but true.
Photo – PGA Championship