May 18, 2019; Bethpage, NY, USA; Brooks Koepka during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bethpage State Park – Black Course. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 19, 2019
By Andrew Both
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (Reuters) – Brooks Koepka had his overnight lead cut almost in half, but still hand a handy four-shot cushion over fellow American Dustin Johnson halfway through the final round of the PGA Championship on Sunday.
Koepka, along with almost everyone else, had to deal with a strong and gusty breeze on an already-difficult Bethpage Black course.
One bogey and one birdie on the front nine left him as he started the day at 12 under par as he made the turn, with Johnson his only realistic threat.
World number one Johnson tamed the winds with three birdies in a flawless 10 holes, vaulting to eight under in search of his second major title after the 2016 U.S. Open.
Englishman Matt Wallace and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond were next at five under after 11 and nine holes respectively.
Koepka’s seven-shot lead starting the day did not last long, as he bogeyed the par-four first, where he found deep rough with his drive.
The dropped shot left him only five clear of playing companion Harold Varner III, who birdied the hole.
But Varner quickly dropped out of contention with successive double-bogeys, leaving Johnson as Koepka’s only danger.
Koepka steadied with a two-putt birdie at the par-five fourth, the easiest hole on the course, and then parred to the turn, still the overwhelming favorite to claim the Wanamaker Trophy, but not far enough ahead to allow the engraver to get to work.
A victory would be Koepka’s fourth major in less than two years, following the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens and the 2018 PGA Championship.
There were some good early scores on Sunday morning before the wind whipped up, with American Beau Hossler shooting a six-birdie, four-bogey two-under-par 68.
But the course average was some three shots over the par of 70.
Phil Mickelson was among the casualties on Sunday, battling his way to a six-over-par 76.
“It’s certainly challenging but there’s nothing over the top because the greens are somewhat receptive,” he said, referring to the soft putting surfaces.
“I thought it was a great set-up to identify who’s playing the best.”
Mickelson finished at 12-over 292, but the American was a clear number one with the rowdy fans.
As boisterous as the spectators have been this week, one can only imagine what it will be like when Bethpage hosts the 2024 Ryder Cup, when Mickelson could be captain on the home team.
(Reporting by Andrew Both, editing by Pritha Sarkar)