American Brooks Koepka was the victor in a major tournament once again, as he claimed a two-shot win at the 100th PGA Championship. Earlier this year Koepka won his second major tournament by successfully defending his US Open title. This was despite the world number two being unable to compete at the US Masters because of a wrist injury.
Kopeka started off the tournament with a solid round of one-under-par before posting a seven-under-par second round to move himself into contention. The US Open champion remained calm during the weekend, despite pressure from Tiger Woods and Adam Scott, and carded two rounds of four-under-par to finish the tournament two shots ahead of the rest of the field.
At Shinnecock Hills in June, Koepka came under pressure from Tommy Fleetwood who carded a course-record equalling round to finish second one shot off of the lead. The USPGA proved to be similar but it was Woods charging on the Sunday – much to the excitement of the spectators. However, Koepka maintained his composure to secure a two-shot victory and his first PGA Championship.
At Carnoustie last month, Tiger Woods showed glimpses of his previous golfing stardom. The former world number one got himself into contention on the final day and even led for a while before he faltered and the Claret Jug was instead claimed by Francesco Molinari. This was Woods’ best performance at a major since his return but having at one time been at the top of the leaderboard, the fact he couldn’t hold on proved that maybe Woods had lost his spark.
Previously, if the fourteen-time major winner had got himself into a position to secure victory he would not have let it go. However, fast forward three weeks and Woods was probably the most talked about man of the weekend. He once again put himself in the right position and on Sunday carded a round of 64 to finish in a tie for second place. Woods performed well at Bellerive but it wasn’t enough to be able to overhaul Koepka, who held firm under the pressure of the former world number one breathing down his neck.
Speaking to BBC Sport, Woods said: “I was in contention at the last two majors and would never have foreseen that a year ago. I’m just so thankful to be here. I played hard. It was a bit of a struggle with my game. I was just hanging in there, grinding it out and trying to make as many birdies as possible. I was always chasing. I didn’t drive well all day – I was hitting it left and right on the driving range, even with my sand wedge – so I knew it was going to be a struggle to piece together a round but I did.”
The Bellerive Country Club did not provide a happy hunting ground for the British contingent. It was the world number 23, Tyrrell Hatton, who finished highest of the lot on nine-under-par in a tie for tenth place with Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello. Hatton had a great final round, he scored 64 which along with Tiger Woods and Cabrera-Bello was the lowest score of the round.
Hatton has all but secured his place on the European Ryder Cup team having maintained his form throughout the year. The next best placed Brits were Englishmen Justin Rose and Matt Wallace, who finished the tournament on seven-under-par. Wallace had one of the moments of the tournament as he secured hole-in-one on the 16th in the third round.
Of the rest of the Brits who made the cut, Ian Poulter ended on five-under par with Tommy Fleetwood and Russell Knox one shot further back. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy finished in a disappointing tie for 50th place with Eddie Pepperell ending the tournament on level par and Ross Fisher finished on one-over-par.
The Ryder Cup takes place at the end of September and this major provided an opportunity for many potential members of the teams to secure their places. For Team USA, the automatic qualifying places were confirmed after the rankings were updated following the conclusion of the PGA Championship. Team Europe have a few more weeks to try and secure a qualifying spot.
Ian Poulter finished in a tie for 31st and as a result moved up into the final qualifying spot on the European rankings. The Englishman worked hard for his finish with a very solid tournament combining two level par rounds of 70 with a first round of 67 and a third round of 68. This was an improvement on Carnoustie where Poulter failed to make the cut.
In the weeks between the major tournaments, Poulter finished in a tie for 12th place at the Canadian Open and a tie for 10th at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. However, Poulter’s place is not yet secure and he will have to continue to play well at the tournaments in the coming weeks to finish ahead of Paul Casey, Thorbjorn Olesen and Rafael Cabrera-Bello in the rankings.
It was a disappointing tournament for Rory McIlroy, as he could not find the form to get into contention. The world number seven had a steady start to the tournament carding a level par round and McIlroy moved himself to three-under-par after the second round. However, on ‘moving day’ the four-time major winner could only muster a one-over par round.
McIlroy closed the tournament out with a level par round to finish in a tie for 50th place. With the Ryder Cup on the horizon, the former world number would have hoped that his form would improve heading into the bi-annual competition. Yet , it has been four years since the Northern Irishman won a major tournament and it is clear that this remains a sore point.
Speaking to BBC Sport, McIlroy said, “It’s been a year where I’ve shown glimpses of what I can do but I just haven’t done it often enough. There’s a lot of room for improvement. My swing really hasn’t been where I want it to be. It was pretty good at the start of the year but it’s sort of regressed as the season has gone on.”
The next ‘major’ event on the golf radar is the 2018 Ryder Cup which is taking place at Le Golf National on September 28th – 30th.
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