Brooks Koepka has held off a vintage Tiger Woods charge to win the US PGA Championship and claim his third major championship title.
The big-hitting American fired a four-under-par 66 at Missouri’s Bellerive Country Club to earn a 16-under total and a two-shot win from 14-time major champion Woods (64), with Australia’s Adam Scott (67) third at 13 under.
The 28-year-old Koepka successfully defended his breakthrough 2017 US Open victory at Shinnecock Hills this year.
Woods finished in style early on Monday (AEST) with a birdie on the last for a 64 to match the day’s best round with Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello and Englishman Tyrrell Haton.
But Koepka stayed solid to claim his third major in 14 months.
The victory places the American in elite company as he joins Woods, Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win the US Open and US PGA in the same season.
Yet Koepka is somewhat under-appreciated by golf fans.
Despite having one of the most powerful swings in the game, an unflappable temperament and now three major titles, one less than Rory McIlroy, the same as Jordan Spieth and two more than world No.1 Dustin Johnson, he is rarely mentioned among the game’s A-listers.
Whether his two-stroke victory over Woods changes the way Koepka is perceived is an open question.
“I try to acknowledge all the fans as much as I can but there’s always going to be people that hate you, but you’ve just got to move on and use that as motivation,” he said.
“The people around me, they know who I am, and that’s really all I care about.”
Few people actually dislike Koepka, but apathy is a more appropriate description of how most golf fans view him.
No matter what, it was difficult not to be impressed with the way he responded to the challenges of Woods and Scott, with birdies at the 15th and 16th holes that proved the difference in the end.
“I have a lot of self belief,” said Koepka, struggling to recall having ever been rattled on the course.
“Even today, I knew when everyone was making that charge that if I just hung in there I was going to have a chance to separate myself a little bit.”
Koepka has only one non-major PGA Tour title on his resume, but Scott said that was not the worst thing in the world.
“I’ve heard some frustration that he hasn’t won a lot of other tournaments, but he’s won three majors now, so he’s definitely winning the right ones,” he said.
“If I was him, I wouldn’t change much at the moment. I’d just keep doing what he’s doing because he’s showing up at the right moments in the biggest events.
“I can see he’s got that mindset. There’s something inside his brain that makes him believe that that’s what he’s destined to do.”