Creeks Koepka in command and maintaining US PGA contenders in vain pursuit

Brooks Koepka maintained a US PGA seven-stroke lead after scoring a third-round 70 at Bethpage, with Dustin Johnson among four players sharing second spot

In ordinary situations the missing of an opening hole, 6ft putt by a tournament leader would deliver hope to the field. But the issue is extraordinary times, where such aberrations by Brooks Koepka stimulate no change. When Koepka slipped up again, from within 3ft at the 9th, his leading was a mere seven shots.

Koepka will begin the fourth round of the 101 st US PGA Championship at 12 under par and holding a seven-stroke advantage. Hope among all others is publicly forlorn and privately non-existent. Barring a delivery of kryptonite to Bethpage, or someone placing explodable balls in his golf suitcase overnight, Koepka will win his fourth major in eight attempts.

A Saturday 70 entailed Koepka aimed the round with precisely the same margin for error he had started with. Jazz Janewattananond, Harold Varner III, Luke List and Dustin Johnson are tied at the summit of the tournament within the tournament. At least the chase for second will be fierce.

Koepka’s dominance of this event is such that comparisons with Tiger Woods are inevitable. The 15 -times major win himself described parallels before leaving Bethpage with a missed cut on his CV. Timbers, in his all-conquering prime, led fields a similarly merry dance in golf’s biggest tournaments. Koepka routinely gives the impression of not being altogether bothered about perceptions of him but his status is now such that he has to be considered in elite company in golfing history.

The
The Bethpage galleries watch on as Brooks Koepka chips on to the 18 th green during his third round at the PGA Championship. Photograph: Julio Cortez/ AP

Some may argue a consequence of the Floridian’s display here has been a relatively dull major. They did not say that when Woods blitzed the opponent. The change is that Woods’s artistry- and recurring wizardly- contrasts with Koepka’s functional style. The sight of thousands of spectators heading for Bethpage’s exit with the leader still in the early stages of his back nine was telling. He seems to be the captivating viewing that Woods once was. Either that, or the galleries regarded this as a foregone conclusion.

Six years ago Koepka was winning the Montecchia Open on the Challenge Tour. In the event of what must be inevitable glory on Sunday he will move inside the PGA Tour’s top 50 of all-time money winners. Ricky Elliott, Koepka’s caddie, will need the services of an investment banker before long.

Koepka’s short work in Long Island continued within five third-round holes, by which time he had birdied twice. That uncharacteristic slip at the 9th was followed by another bogey at the 10 th after Koepka observed rough from the tee. This was Koepka’s first drop of successive shots since March. The response arrived at the 13 th but was handed back to the course on the 16 th. Koepka’s level-par 70 was easily his “worst” performance of the week.

The rest of the leaderboard is wonderfully compact. Johnson needed to get up and down from thick rough alongside a greenside bunker at the 18 th to procure a Sunday tee time with Koepka, his close friend. Johnson fluffed his attempt to get to the green, with a bogey ensuing.

Quick guide

USPGA Championship leaderboard – third round

USPGA Championship leaderboard – third round

1 Brooks Koepka( USA) -1 2
T2 Dustin Johnson( USA) -5
T2 Luke List( USA) -5
T2 Jazz Janewattananond( THA) -5
T2 Harold Varner III( USA) -5
T6 Matt Wallace( ENG) -4
T6 Hideki Matsuyama( JPN) -4
T8 Adam Scott( AUS) -3
T8 Xander Schauffele( USA) -3
T8 Patrick Cantlay( USA) -3
T8 Jordan Spieth( USA) -3

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Janewattananond, playing in his first US PGA, signed for a 67 to move to minus five. The charismatic Thai’s backstory is terrific; he adopted his nickname due to his father’s love of jazz music and spent two weeks living as a monk in 2016.” I arrived here on Monday, it was raining ,” he said.” Tuesday was raining. The course plays so tough because the rough was so long, the ball didn’t go anywhere. I was having a nightmare, believing,’ How am I going to play this golf course? I’m not going to break 80.’ This has surpassed my expectations. People keep screaming’ We love you .’ They love me here .” Varner III matched Janewattananond’s aggregate courtesy of a 67 of his own. List held second place at one Saturday stage but had to settle for a 69 and a place in the five-under quartet.

Matt Wallace and Hideki Matsuyama sit at four under. Jordan Spieth headed in the wrong direction on moving day, his 72 entailing he is nine adrift of Koepka. Spieth’s poor Saturday scoring is beginning to look like more than a coincidence.

Tommy Fleetwood’s 72 slid him back to even par. Justin Rose is alongside Fleetwood after a 73 which included two sixes on par-fives and a double-bogey five at the 14 th.

Rory McIlroy appeared disconsolate after a 69 which moved him to two over par and still outside the top 20. The Northern Irishman insisted, though, that he harboured no inherent sense that he should be competing at the summit of the leaderboard.

” No, because I feel that would be very entitled ,” McIlroy said.” I haven’t played well enough to be out there and that’s the way it is .”

If McIlroy harbours professional resentment towards Koepka, who should match his major carry of four on Sunday evening, he conceals it well.” It’s awesome, it’s so good ,” said McIlroy of Koepka’s performance.

” It’s great to watch. He’s definitely, in these events, playing on a different level than almost anyone else .” Almost? This felt like the understatement of the year.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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