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Koepka avoids historic collapse to win PGA Championship

Updated May 19, 2019 - 4:28 pm

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka took his place in PGA Championship history with a victory, minus the style points.

In a raging wind that turned Bethpage Black into a beast, Koepka lost all but one shot of his record seven-shot lead Sunday. He lost the brutal Long Island crowd, which began chanting “DJ!” for Dustin Johnson as Koepka was on his way to a fourth straight bogey.

But he delivered the key shots over the closing stretch as Johnson faded with two straight bogeys, closed with a 4-over 74 for a two-shot victory and joined Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of the PGA Championship since it went to stroke play in 1958.

Koepka said at the start of the week that majors are sometimes the easiest to win.

This one should have been. It wasn’t.

His 74 was the highest final round by a PGA champion in 15 years.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to play any more holes,” Koepka said. “That was a stressful round of golf. I’m glad to have this thing back in my hands.”

Koepka appeared to wrap it up with a gap wedge from 156 yards to 2 feet on the 10th hole for a birdie, as Johnson made his first bogey of the round up ahead on the 11th. That restored the lead to six shots, and the coronation was on.

And then it all changed in a New York minute.

Koepka missed three straight fairways and made three straight bogeys, having to make a 6-foot putt on No. 11 to keep it from being worse. The wind was so fickle that it died as he hit 7-iron to the par-3 14th that sailed over the green, leading to a fourth straight bogey.

The crowd sensed a collapse, and began chanting, “DJ! DJ! DJ!” as Koepka was playing the hole. Ahead of him, Johnson made birdie on the 15th — the toughest hole at Bethpage Black all week — and the lead was down to one.

That was as close as Johnson got.

His 5-iron pierced through a wind that gusted close to 25 mph, over the green and into a buried lie. He missed the 7-foot par putt, went long of the green on the par-3 17th for another bogey and had to settle for 69. He now has runner-up finishes in all four of the majors, the wrong kind of career Grand Slam.

Koepka returned to No. 1 in the world with a performance that defines his dominance in golf’s biggest events.

He becomes the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time, having won a second straight U.S. Open last summer 60 miles down the road at Shinnecock Hills. He was the first wire-to-wire winner in the PGA Championship since Hal Sutton at Riviera in 1983.

And what stakes his claim as one of the best in his generation was a third straight year winning a major. He joins a most elite group — only Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer have done that since the Masters began in 1934.

He now has four majors in his last eight, a streak not seen since Woods won seven out of 11 in the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.

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