ROCHESTER, New York — Brooks Koepka claimed a PGA Championship hat-trick and a landmark major win for LIV Golf on Sunday but the day also belonged to Michael Block, a 46-year-old club professional, who capped a golfing fairytale with a hole-in-one.
Koepka, saying he had learned his lessons from last month’s Masters when he led by two going into the final round before a collapse opened the door for Jon Rahm to grab the Green Jacket, began the day with a one-shot advantage and would not let go.
In a cool, clinical display, Koepka returned a three-under 67 for a winning total of nine-under 271 and a two-shot victory over world number two Scottie Scheffler and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
“I just learned I knew what I did in Augusta,” Koepka told reporters. “I spent the whole night thinking about it.
“I knew what I did and I knew I was never going to come out and think that way again.
“Didn’t do that.”
The win gives Koepka a fifth major and third PGA Championship to go with back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019.
With 33-year-old Koepka clinging to a one-shot lead, the turning point came at the par four 16th where the big-hitting American had a birdie and Hovland a double-bogey after trouble in a fairway bunker, opening up a four-shot cushion.
Scheffler began the day four shots back but by the back nine had put himself back in the thick of the chase.
In the end a terrible third round had put him in too big a hole that even the joint best round of the day, a five-under 65, could not dig him out of.
Hovland, bidding to become the first Norwegian man to win a golf major, closed with a 68 to grab a share of second.
“It sucks right now, but it is really cool to see that things are going the right direction,” said Hovland, who has now contended in the last three majors with a tie for second at the British Open and tie for seventh at the Masters. “If I just keep taking care of my business and just keep working on what I’ve been doing, I think we’re going to get one of these soon.”
Australian Cam Davis (65), Kurt Kitayama (65) and Bryson DeChambeau (70) finished six shots back in a tie for fourth.
The win will be remembered as a landmark moment for LIV Golf, with Koepka’s major victory being the first by a member of the controversial Saudi-bankrolled circuit, providing badly needed validation.
Critics of LIV Golf have branded the big-money venture as uncompetitive and little more than a sportwashing enterprise by a country eager to polish its human rights record.
Koepka’s win will not end the human rights questions but will give LIV Golf a bit of the credibility and respect it is demanding.
“I definitely think it helps LIV, but I’m more interested in my own self right now, to be honest with you,” said Koepka, who had seen his career stalled much of the last two years by knee injuries and surgery. “I think I was the first guy to win two LIV events.
“To win a major is always a big deal no matter where you’re playing.
“Yeah, it’s a huge thing for LIV, but at the same time I’m out here competing as an individual at the PGA Championship.”
For all the magic produced by golf’s biggest names at Oak Hill none could match what Block, an unknown club professional, conjured up.
Already a fan favorite before the final round teed off, Block, one of 20 teaching professionals in the field, added to a Rocky-like Hollywood script when his tee shot at the par-three 15th soared into the air and slammed straight into the cup without even rattling the flagstick.
The moment left Block, who was playing with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, in disbelief.
“No, no, no way. Rory did it go in?” Block said on the tee as spectators erupted in wild scenes around the green.
Block, who has “Why Not” written on his golf balls, became the every man blue-collar hero and gallery darling at Oak Hill by carrying the hopes and dreams of every duffer who has picked up a club.
His legion of fans have not seen the last of the charismatic club pro who finished with a one-over 71 which was good enough for a tie for 15th and automatic entry into next year’s PGA Championship. — Reuters