Brooks Koepka Surges To The Lead At P.G.A. Championship

“I probably hit it a little better off the tee today than I did the first couple of days, but I think this tournament and especially in these conditions and on this golf course, the nonphysical parts of the game, I think, are way more important this week than the physical parts of the game,” McIlroy said Saturday. “And I think I’ve done those well, and that’s the reason that I’m in a decent position.”

Koepka has not gone as long as McIlroy without a major victory, though he has been more battered with injuries these last few years. He began to gain ground early on Saturday, with birdies on the fourth and fifth holes. At No. 5, christened Little Poison, his 179-yard tee shot landed neatly on the green, setting up a putt for birdie. Unlike plenty of other past major champions, including McIlroy, Scottie Scheffler and Bryson DeChambeau, on Saturday, he avoided a bogey at No. 6, a havoc-inducing par-4 that has been playing closer to a 5.

A second shot at No. 13 landed in the rough, leaving Koepka 96 yards from the hole. His next stroke put him on the green, setting up a birdie putt from roughly 18 and a half feet. That putt, though, seemed puny at the 17th hole, when Koepka rolled one in from about 47 feet.

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One of the central questions entering the tournament at Oak Hill was whether Koepka would much resemble the player who punished almost the entire field at Augusta. Playing in the LIV Golf league afterward, he had assembled a middling performance in Australia, a third-place finish in Singapore and a sixth-place outing last weekend in Oklahoma.

new balance

Before that tournament near Tulsa, he had mused over how he enjoyed the rigors of the majors: “the discipline, the mental grind that comes with it all, the focus.” In the hours after his letdown at Augusta, he said this past week, he did not sleep, that swaggering mind suddenly left looking for answers. The answers took shape within days.

He said on Saturday that he had learned that he should “never think the way I thought going into the final round.”

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