Brooks Koepka marches further ahead in destruction of Bethpage

American takes a seven shot lead into the final day as he shows no signs of let up

Brooks Koepka of the United States walks off the sixth tee during the third round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Brooks Koepka of the United States walks off the sixth tee during the third round of the 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage Black. Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

 

No sign of a blue moon over the Long Island landscape; nor, for that matter any chance of anyone catching Brooks Koepka in the US PGA Championship as the 29-year-old American, who’d overpowered the famed Bethpage Black course the first two days, adopted a more methodical route to a third round 70 for a 54-holes total of 12-under-par 198, seven shots clear of a chasing quartet.

Dustin Johnson, the world number one, was among four players on the 205 mark – along with American’s Harold Varner III, Luke List and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond – but Koepka moved towards the end game of this 101st edition of championship with destiny in his own hands.

“I’m going to need some help from him, and then I’m going to have to play very, very well,” conceded Johnson of that task facing him – and others – going into the final round.

There have been nine instances of players holding a seven stroke or greater lead heading into the last round of a Major, and in all nine cases the leader won out. The most recent was Rory McIlroy’s victory in the 2011 US Open, where he was eight ahead starting the final round.

“I’m just trying to do me, and feel like if I can go out and go play good golf, everything’s going to be just fine. I don’t feel any pressure,” said Koepka, who added: “I’m definitely not going to let up; I promise you that. I’m just trying to hit the best possible shot I can at the time ... I enjoy the confidence I have and what I’m playing with right now."

Koepka hits his approach to the second. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP Photo
Koepka hits his approach to the second. Photo: Seth Wenig/AP Photo

Koepka, who has already holds back-to-back US Opens after his wins in 2017 and 2018, is attempting to become the first player in history to also retain his US PGA title after victory in St Louis last year.

Where he outmuscled the course for the first two rounds, his play in the third round – with a swirling wind and tough pin placements – was more measured, as he strategised in tandem with caddie Ricky Elliott a safety first route around the course.

On a day where the 67s posted by Varner and Janwattananond were the low rounds, Koepka’s 70 – three birdies, three bogeys – kept him his pursuers at arm’s length and his birdie on the Par 5 13th, where an errant drive right finished in rough by the trees, epitomised that stay-in-the-moment attitude.

Sometimes, you get rewarded for sheer doggedness. Take Shane Lowry. Having required a 17th hole birdie in Friday’s second round to make the cut on the mark, the 32-year-old Offalyman - released from the pressure of surviving into the weekend - produced a third round 68 for 212, two-over-par, that saw him make a significant upward move.

Lowry started the day with an early morning alarm call, posted his round of two birdies, one bogey and 15 pars without truly realising how good the score was. By day’s end, he had leapfrogged one player after another, all the way up to tied-26th.

Having won the Abu Dhabi Championship at the start of the year, Lowry’s season since – including a disappointing missed cut in the Masters last month – has been a challenge but a third place finish recently in the Heritage Classic re-energised him.

“I feel like this year has been going all right. Obviously I’ve missed a few too many cuts, but look, that’s the way golf goes. It’s kind of ups and downs, especially that’s kind of the way my golf game is. I play well five to 10 times a year and then the other weeks, you kind of have to write them off a little bit. But you hope the good weeks come on the big weeks.

“This is a pretty big week. They are coming thick and fast this year. I don’t think I put too much pressure on myself this week but look, this is just a brutally tough golf course. I didn’t have it 100 percent on Thursday, that’s the reason I’m sitting here on two-over. I went out with a great mindset the last couple days, and managed to play the last two rounds in three-under, which is pretty nice.”

Dustin Johnson pitches up the 11th green. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Dustin Johnson pitches up the 11th green. Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Lowry was also joined on that 212 mark by Rory McIlroy, who signed for a third round 69. The highlight of McIlroy’s round was an eagle three on the fourth as he reached the turn in 32 but he failed to find a birdie on the homeward stretch, incurring two bogeys, in coming back in 37.

“I played well. I didn’t convert as many chances as I would have liked but it was an improvement over the last couple days,” said McIlroy.

Graeme McDowell too found it difficult on the back nine, as he ran up four bogeys coming home to sign for a 73 for 215. “It’s a golf course where I can’t afford to make too many mistakes and I have to take my opportunities when they come along and didn’t do a really good job of that today unfortunately,” admitted McDowell.

Collated third round scores & totals in the 101st PGA Championship, Bethpage State Park Black Course, Bethpage, New York, United Sates of America (USA unless stated, par 70):

198 Brooks Koepka 63 65 70

205 Dustin Johnson 69 67 69, Luke List 68 68 69, Jazz Janewattananond (Tha) 70 68 67, Harold Varner III 71 67 67

206 Matt Wallace (Eng) 69 67 70, Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 70 68 68

207 Adam Scott (Aus) 71 64 72, Xander Schauffele 70 69 68, Patrick Cantlay 69 70 68, Jordan Spieth 69 66 72

208 Sung Kang (Kor) 68 70 70, Erik Van Rooyen (Rsa) 70 68 70

209 Danny Lee (Nzl) 64 74 71, Rickie Fowler 69 69 71

210 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den) 71 69 70, Justin Rose (Eng) 70 67 73, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 67 71 72, Lucas Glover 72 69 69, Danny Willett (Eng) 71 70 69, Chez Reavie 68 71 71

211 Sam Burns 70 72 69, Jimmy Walker 70 70 71, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 70 68 73, Scott Piercy 72 67 72

212 Jason Day (Aus) 69 74 69, Aaron Wise 70 71 71, Matt Kuchar 70 70 72, Adam Hadwin (Can) 72 70 70, Charles Howell III 72 67 73, Tony Finau 70 73 69, Haotong Li (Chn) 73 69 70, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha) 76 68 68, Abraham Ancer (Mex) 73 70 69, Rory McIlroy (NIrl) 72 71 69, Shane Lowry (Irl) 75 69 68, Adam Long 73 70 69, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 71 69 72

213 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 72 68 73, Zach Johnson 71 69 73, Gary Woodland 70 70 73, Bronson Burgoon 73 66 74, Webb Simpson 72 69 72, Emiliano Grillo (Arg) 76 67 70, Joel Dahmen 70 72 71, Keegan Bradley 70 70 73, Billy Horschel 70 72 71

214 Daniel Berger 70 66 78, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 68 71 75, Jason Kokrak 73 70 71, Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 73 70 71, Kelly Kraft 71 65 78, J.J. Spaun 72 72 70, Brandt Snedeker 74 67 73

215 JT Poston 77 67 71, Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 70 72 73, Thomas Pieters (Bel) 74 70 71

216 Phil Mickelson 69 71 76, Alex Noren (Swe) 73 69 74, Ryan Vermeer 70 74 72, Paul Casey (Eng) 70 71 75, Cameron Champ 72 71 73, Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 75 65 76

217 Pat Perez 68 73 76, Charley Hoffman 73 69 75, Cameron Smith (Aus) 73 70 74, Justin Harding (Rsa) 74 70 73, Lucas Herbert (Aus) 74 70 73, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 74 68 75

218 Rob Labritz 75 69 74, Ross Fisher (Eng) 74 67 77, Beau Hossler 72 69 77, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 75 69 74

219 Kurt Kitayama 74 68 77, Andrew Putnam 74 70 75, Kevin Tway 73 70 76

220 Marty Jertson 72 69 79, Max Homa 70 71 79, Corey Conners (Can) 72 72 76

221 Joost Luiten (Ned) 72 72 77, David Lipsky 70 74 77

226 Rich Beem 75 69 82

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