Brooks Koepka took inspiration from the crowd turning on him as he nearly “choked away” the PGA Championship and battled through to recover for the most satisfying victory of his career.
Koepka on Sunday shook off four back-nine bogeys in a row to win his fourth major title at Bethpage Black, taking a two-stroke victory over fast-closing Dustin Johnson.
“This is definitely the most satisfying of all the ones I’ve won,” Koepka said. “Today was definitely the most satisfying for how stressful that round was, how stressful D.J. made that. This was, by far, the most stressful.”
Koepka began the final round with a PGA record seven-stroke lead and saw it shrink to a single shot.
No man has led a major by so much so late and lost, but Koepka nearly did after bogeys on holes 11 through 14.
“I don’t want to say it’s a panic, but it’s definitely a shock when you make a couple,” Koepka said. “I wasn’t nervous. I was just in shock of what was going on — 13 was a bit disappointing and 14 was just a bit of a shock to go four in a row. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve made four bogeys in a row. I don’t know if I ever have, but just had to reset. I think everybody chanting: ‘D.J.’ kind of helped that.”
New York fans are notorious for turning on favorites when they falter and Koepka proved no exception, fans calling out “D.J.” to add tension to every blunder.
“It’s New York. What do you expect when you’re half-choking it away?” Koepka said. “I kind of deserved it. You’re going to rattle off four in a row and it looks like you’re going to lose it. I’ve been to sporting events in New York. I know how it goes.”
What he did not anticipate is how the chants would give him something to focus upon, shake the shock and the bogeys, and reboot.
“I think it actually helped. It was at a perfect time because I was just thinking: ‘OK, all right. I’ve got everybody against me. Let’s go.’ It helped me refocus and hit a good one down 15. That was probably the best thing that could have happened. It was very stressful, the last hour and a half of that round. You’ve got to right the ship eventually and try to stay mentally strong.”
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