There have now been 100 PGA Championships.
It’s hard to imagine a better one than this Battle At Bellerive.
Things got absolutely crazy, loud and over-the-top on a raucous Sunday for the final round of the season’s last major championship.
This one was a fight and then some.
Tiger Woods started it — then Brooks Koepka finished it.
Ten years ago a closing 64 by Tiger Woods would have won him just about any major. But Woods’ best just wasn’t good enough to rattle Cool Hand Brooks.
All the reigning U.S. Open champion did was take the best Tiger had to offer, then the best from a resurrected Adam Scott. He took their best, then gave them his down the stretch.
By day’s end, all Woods got for his amazing 64, his lowest final round ever in a major, was a solo second place finish. Welcome to the year 2018, welcome to the world of Koepka, who has quietly won two of the three majors he played in this season and who will end up as the 2018 Player Of The Year when they vote on that stuff.
Back in the day the contenders would wilt under pressure from Woods. They fell at his feet like 12-year-olds at a Taylor Swift concert.
But not on this Sunday.
Koepka countered Tiger’s 64 and Scott’s 65 with a 66 of his own. He started the day with a two-shot lead and ended it that way
Throughout the afternoon, he felt the old “Tiger Effect.” The roars went up all over the place as Woods made something out of nothing. He missed every fairway on the front nine and still shot three-under par to insert himself squarely in the hunt. Woods made the fight, no doubt about it.
Woods got himself together a bit at the turn, birdied 12 and 13 and it was game on, Woods was making his move toward win No. 80 and a 15th major.
A bogey at 14 stung him. Woods will look back and know his driver cost him this shot at his first major in 10 years. A wild drive plugged in the hazard at 17 and best he could do was salvage par, which he did. Then just for good measure, he threw in a closing birdie from 15 feet, fist pump and all. Second place didn’t suck in Tiger’s new world.
The roars, the move up the leaderboard by Woods — none of it bothered Brooks.
He turned in 33 to get to 14-under in a hurry and sent a message. He put up five straight pars before back-to-back birdies at 15 and the difficult 16th got him to 16-under. Sorry Adam, sorry Tiger, this guy, this Cool Hand Brooks guy is a closer, he’s the real deal. The footnotes say he’s won three of the last seven major championships.
The fans have yet to embrace him.
He’s a quiet personality but he’s as focused as a man can get when these big ones are on the line.
Koepka ended up winning two of the three majors he played in this season. Remember, his wrist injury cost him a Masters appearance.
“Absolutely not,” said Koepka, asked if he could imagine winning a pair of majors in 2018.
“It’s actually mind-boggling. My focus — for some reason the majors just get my attention. Every shot is so important.”
The Tiger roars didn’t break that focus either.
“I could hear when Tiger made his little run,” Koepka said. “A lot of noise out there. It was fun. I enjoyed the noise and the roars.”
He also enjoyed hoisting the hefty Wanamaker Trophy.
No problem for Brooks.
After all, this is a guy who can rip off 14 reps on the bench press with 225 pounds on the bar.
Hoisting that 27-pound trophy was no challenge.