Toughest man on the course at Bellerive on Saturday was once again Brooks Koepka.
The reigning U.S. Open champion got off to a hot start on the front nine, made a few mistakes coming home but steadied himself enough for a third round 66. That four-under par round got him to 12-under par and he’ll take a two-shot lead over Adam Scott into Sunday at the 100th PGA Championship.
“I played pretty well,” Koepka said after a birdie-par finish. “Got off to a hot start, played well coming in.”
His plan for Sunday — “Stay in the moment.”
Here’s how the contenders are lined up behind Koepka:
Adam Scott: Scott missed one short putt on the back nine, otherwise, his 65 was low round of the day. The long-hitting Aussie had a chance to pull within a shot of Koepka but missed from seven-feet at 18. He’s the only other player in double-digits under par (10-under). “I’m driving it much better which means I was able to hit some good iron shots out there. I’m putting better,” Scott said after his big move on Saturday.
Jon Rahm: His 66 got him to nine-under. He’ll play in Sunday’s next-to-last pairing with Rickie Fowler. Rahm said he’s been working on his mental game. Seems to be working. “Today was a lot better than yesterday,” Rahm said. “I hit 16 greens. Overall, solid play.”
Rickie Fowler: Rickie struggled with his driver a bit, perhaps hampered by the oblique muscle he strained earlier in the week. “The good news is that it hasn’t gotten worse,” said Fowler, who has his side taped to support the strain. “Nice to finish where we’re at and have a shot on Sunday,” Fowler said. Describing the long day on Saturday — “it was fight and grind.” Rickie, like half the field, had to finish his second round early Saturday then head right back out for round three. He put up 67 for the second round and hung in there to shoot 69 in the afternoon to get to nine-under.
Gary Woodland: Woodland’s 71 put him in the group at nine under and he’ll look back at his 10th hole and shake his head, thinking about what might have been. It was on that par four that his second shot found the front greenside bunker. His third sailed long into the back greenside bunker then his fourth was awful, going back into the same front greenside bunker where Kevin Kisner’s caddie hadn’t had a chance to rake it. Woodland had to hit his fifth from his own footprints and he was still short. He chipped up and made the putt for a triple-bogey seven. A par save there might have given him a share of the lead with Koepka.
Tiger Woods: Woods should have been in that group at nine-under, at least. His second shot at the par five 17th left him with a 20-foot eagle putt. He rammed it four-feet past the hole and missed the birdie putt to get to nine-under. Instead, he posted 66 and is one of six at eight-under par. He’ll play on Sunday with Jason Day.
Jason Day: His 67 earned him a trip around Bellerive on Sunday with his pal Tiger Woods.
Justin Thomas: Played pretty much under the radar on Saturday. He had to finish seven holes with playing partners Woods and Rory McIlroy. Thomas’ second round 65 got him to six-under then his afternoon 68 got him within four of Koepka.
Stewart Cink: His 66 made him one of the surprise contenders at eight-under.
Shane Lowry: His 69 made him one of the surprise contenders at eight-under.
Charl Schwartzel: Another surprise contender. He shot 69.
The final round will be controlled by Koepka. If he shoots four-under par again, he would force Adam Scott to shoot 64 to tie him. He would force the nine-under to shoot 63s and the eight-unders would have to shoot 62 — highly unlikely.