Koepka is great again | Sports

Koepka, with the Wanamaker cup.
Koepka, with the Wanamaker cup.Eric Gay (AP)

There was a time when nobody coughed, when whenever there was a major came out as a favourite. He had earned it hard, winner of four -two US Open (2017 and 2018) and two PGA (2018 and 2019)-, and top-5 in nine others. Brooks Koepka, 33, was the lord of the greats, the beast that when it was time to compete did it better than anyone. “Between 17 and 19 I was the best in the world. But the injuries arrived – both knees and the hip – and he didn’t know if he would play again, ”explained the American, who was lost between operating rooms and gyms. His hunger and his determination, however, had not abated. But it wasn’t until last Masters when he said here I am, a competitor with Rahm until the end. Now, however, he can say that he is back, winner of his third PGA and five majorsa record that places him among the 15 best in history tied with John Henry Taylor, James Braid, Byron Nelson, Peter Thomson and Severiano Ballesteros.

“Welcome to the double PGA champion!” shouted the speaker of the tee on the 1st to present Koepka, while a very warm ovation was uncorked, as if the fan’s quarrels over his escape to LIV had already been forgotten. He responded with a slight wave of his hand, concentrating on everything that was to come. And that was a lot. Because that’s how his nemesis wanted it yesterday, the Norwegian Viktor Hovland, who fought with everything and more. But he did not reach him. It turns out that Koepka, a competitor with infinite gauze, a winning character by definition, had taken note of what happened to him with Rahm in the Masters, because, like a mantra, he explained that his failure, due to that of leading, had been to play not lose, moving away from his aggressive mentality, from his natural golf. And that, once again at the head of the table on the final day of the PGA Championship, did not happen in Oak Hill, where on the last lap he made four bogeys and seven birdies.

Right off the bat, he signed three birdies in the first four holes, cosmic irons and three shots ahead. It seemed little to him because on hole six he decided to go out with him. drivers when the field did not ask him for more than a wood, hitter as he is. But for Koepka everything is red or black, yes or no, without gray or shades. The ball went into the water. A bogey. She was not sorry. And that Hovland, who was not into bagpipes, exquisite with the set of irons, blows to the pepa that gave you options birdies or at least a pair, and if not golden wrists when he got tangled in the rough that bordered the green and absorbed the ball. The golden boy – he was number one in the world amateur ranking, US Amateur champion, Ben Hogan trophy for best university student… – asked himself to grow up. Even more so because he has already won three PGA tournaments and two on the European Tour. In the equator of the route, a shot of advantage and the one-on-one, at that point, was already served, even though Scheffler did not give up and found the way, the one that Will Smith showed Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger Vance. He finished with -7 and in second position tied with Hovland, enough to recover the lead in the world ranking, to snatch it from Rahm, punished during the week for the putt and for a drivers that he has not responded as usual, so he ended up with a +7 and tied for 50th place. Pablo Larrazábal, for his part, serene and competitive as he had always demanded, managed to once again sign a more than worthy lap (+4) and finished with +12 in tied 65th place.

But the good part was yet to come because at 13 Hovland scored a birdie, one stroke behind the leader with five holes to play. And he repeated in the next hole as well as Koepka, who endured the attacks. The resolution, however, came early because on the 16th hole the Norwegian fell into a bunker from the start. The continuation was his drama, a ball that did not gain height and was embedded again in the bunker with the option of dropping it without penalty, but in a most uncomfortable situation and with the ball lying on the bed of the lush Bermuda grass. He finished with a double bogey and Koepka replied with a birdie, four strokes ahead with two holes to go and the story ended, he with -9 final. Although there was another story in the tournament, the American dream starring Michael Block, a professional club player and golf teacher, who not only finished the tournament with +1, but also made a sensational hole in one on the 15th, a direct ball to the hole without any boat. “It can’t be, it can’t be”, he repeated himself… His tournament is well worth applause and the safe-conduct for the next PGA because the 15th was tied -so the regulations specified-, excellent brand, the third best in the history of a professional club player, trailing only Tommy Aycock at the 1974 US Senior Open and Lonnie Nielsen at the 1986 Dick’s Sporting Goods Open, both tied for eleventh. Glory for Block and victory and cup Wanamaker for Koepka, who clenched his fist and teeth before embracing his caddy in a heartfelt way, to be visibly moved because what he suffered had been worth it. “This is incredible. I look at where she was two years ago – in reference to her physical condition from injuries – and this is really special. I am very happy, I have no words. I love you all!”. Koepka, the only one with Tiger and Nicklaus to win three PGA Championships, is big again, very big.

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