The main talking points from the 2018 PGA Championship: Why it’s time to stop overlooking Brooks Koepka; Eleven Sports fail to broadcast winning putt; When will Tiger win again?; Players praise the ‘biggest crowds’ they’ve ever seen at Bellerive
There’s plenty of people who don’t tend to think of Brooks Koepka as one of the World’s best players. It’s very clear now that he is.
With three major victories in his last six appearances, Koepka was unfazed and in control throughout the final round on Sunday as he turned his game up a gear and added a Wanamaker Trophy to his two US Open titles.
In the process, he has become just the fifth player in history to win both the US Open and PGA Championship in the same year. The others? Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen. He deserves to be in their company.
The new World No.2 was clinical throughout the tournament, setting a new PGA Championship scoring record and holding off challenges from Adam Scott and Tiger Woods, who shot his lowest ever final round in a major on Sunday.
Koepka even missed a huge part of the season with what his coach Claude Harmon III called a potentially ‘career-ending’ wrist injury earlier this year, and went on to successfully defend his US Open title in just his fifth start back.
It was then that he first said ‘I always feel like I’m overlooked’, and it was hard to disagree. He isn’t often mentioned in the same sentences as the likes of Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas or Jason Day when it comes to chances at the big four events… but he now has the same number of majors as all three of them. Put together.
Since he returned to action, he’s played in 10 events and had two major victories, two other top 10s and a T11 at The Players Championship. So why is he overlooked?
In part, it’s likely because until 2017, Koepka had just two professional victories. One on the European Tour in 2014 at the Turkish Airlines Open, and one at the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015. Since then, he’s won three times. All of them majors, which now make up 75% of his wins on the PGA tour. For Koepka, it’s all a matter of focus – and it seems he really turns it up a notch when it comes to the big four events.
“I don’t want to say maybe a different person when I show up to the Majors. I’m very focused, very disciplined. I’m in the house. My agent, Claude, my coach and the chef from the Floridian, he’s there, he’s cooking for us. Everyone’s much more on the same routine. Everybody knows what to expect, what to do. I don’t — I want to say maybe I’ve matured a little bit more off the golf course, which has kind of helped me on the golf course the last few years — being in a routine, waking up, going right to the gym.
“It kills some time, yes, but also gets my body going before I can even come out here and even hit balls and kind of helps pass the time. Especially today, going to the gym this morning and killing two hours, it’s kind of nice. It’s better for you than sitting in the bed, sitting on the couch.
So while he might not be the most charismatic on-course character, he works exceptionally hard, has a truly incredible golf game, and it’s definitely time to stop overlooking him – because at the rate he’s going, he’ll have a lot more than three majors at the end of his career.
“Do you feel like you’ll finally get the appreciation you deserve?” he was asked in his press conference afterwards.
His answer? “I hope so.”
The players LOVED the crowds at Bellerive
After the end of the tournament, major champions Brooks Koepka, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were all among the players to credit the huge crowds and incredible atmosphere at Bellerive, Missouri.
Justin Thomas: The crowds were awesome out there. You could hear the roars from different parts of the golf course. It’s pretty apparent what a Tiger roar is versus anybody else. So I knew he was making noise and I was looking at the leaderboards, I always do on Sunday, because I want to know where I stand and what I need to do to win.
Francesco Molinari: I think it’s the biggest crowd I’ve seen ever at a golf tournament. So well done to St. Louis. It was a pleasure to play this week, really amazing crowds.
Brooks Koepka: I’ve never seen this many people at a golf tournament. They were as energetic and loud as I’ve ever seen. I don’t think — I mean, on Wednesday, I don’t even think there’s been that many people at an event that I’ve ever played at. And then when you come out here on Saturday afternoon, the crowds — I mean, I don’t even know what to say. I’ve never seen that many people at a golf tournament. It’s actually — I mean, I know that it’s a big sports town, which is awesome, and then to see all these people come out and support the golf tournament, I love it. I wish it was like that every week.
Tiger Woods: These fans were so positive all week. I can’t thank them enough for what they were saying out there and what it meant to me as a player, just coming back and trying to win a major championship again
Everyone was willing every shot that everyone hit. There was no negative comments, no one was jeering, no one was making snide remarks, everyone was just very positive. They’re excited, yeah. They sometimes pick sides, yes. But they were respectful. And that’s, I wish we could play in front of crowds like this every single week because this is a true pleasure.
Jordan Spieth: I think the fans this week were probably better than I could ever remember at a golf tournament. They’re fantastic. They’re loud. They came in bunches. There’s a lot of people here. But they also were very respectful. You know the Tiger roars. You know kind of the ground swell. So being able to see the amount of kids that were out here too is unbelievable.
They really came out in full force in St. Louis. You can tell it’s a great sports city. It’s a great market to come to. Hopefully, we can come back here in May, get the course a little bit firmer and faster and even more challenging, and it would be a lot of fun to come back for sure.
Eleven Sports Coverage: Fans disappointed as feed drops off before winning putt
For the first time in history, the US PGA Championship wasn’t shown on Television in the UK and Ireland after talks broke down with the BBC and Sky Sports. Instead, online only channel Eleven Sports took control of the broadcast on a mixture of Facebook Live and their website.
The PGA want to get their tournament seen by as many people as they can, which was why they moved from Sky to the BBC last year, and Eleven Sports provided viewers with a free 7 day pass to their subscription channel to be able to watch.
There were plenty of teething problems on the opening day with constant buffering and a confusing mixture of commentary between the UK team and those from the US feed – who on more than one occasion called the champion Bruce Koepka during the week and Matt Wallace Mike.
By Sunday that transition was far more cohesive and the hosting was well done, and I felt they certainly received more criticism than they probably deserved given that viewers were still able to watch a major championship for free – even if it was on a desktop, ipad or hooked to their TV through an HDMI.
That was, until perhaps the worst and most damming part of their streaming system meant that viewers were automatically logged out at midnight, meaning most viewers (myself included) missed watching Brooks Koepka’s final winning putt – and of course plenty took to social media to talk about it.
It was the ultimate faux pas on a broadcast that had already drawn a lot of negative comparisons to its more polished Sky Sports Golf counterpart. But given steaming seems to be the future, the likes of Eleven Sports aren’t going to go away anytime soon, so we’ll just have to hope if they do get any future majors they manage to make sure viewers can see the tournament winner finish his final round.
When will Tiger Woods win again?
If you watched Tiger Woods on Sunday at the PGA Championship, you’ll know the answer to this already. Soon. Or at least that’s what it feels like.
The first pumps, the huge crowds, the roars heard from every part of the course and eight birdies while wearing his signature Sunday red and black. It was a vintage Tiger Woods, except scoring wise – it was better.
The 14-time major champion put himself in to contention to win a major for the second time this year, posting not only his lowest ever final round in a major but his lowest 72-hole score in a major championship. Just let that sink in.
It was three shots better than when he won the 2000 Open Championship at St Andrews, and four shots better than when he claimed the 1997 Masters title. He might have finished second, but you can’t ignore those numbers.
Since his missed cut at the US Open, Tiger has gone T4-T6-T31-T2. He ranks inside the top 10 on the PGA Tour for SG: Around the green, SG: Approach the green, Scoring Average, 11th for SG: Tee to green, 12th for Birdie average and 31st for SG: Putting. He has also moved to World No. 26, an astonishing 1173 places in 15 events since he entered the Hero World Challenge last December.
For Woods, who didn’t know whether he’d ever play again this time last year, it’s been a process that he’s found difficult but is pleased about his game.
“This has been a process on building. I didn’t know when I was going to start this year and how many tournaments I was going to play, how well I was going to play. I didn’t know what swing I was going to use either. I’m in uncharted territory. Because no one’s ever had a fused spine hitting it like I’m hitting it. So I had to kind of figure this out on my own and it’s been really hard, it’s a lot harder than people think.
“I’m just very pleased at what I’ve done so far and now to be part of the Ryder Cup conversation, going from where I’ve come from to now in the last year, it’s been pretty cool”
He’s back, he’s competing, and it’s not going to be long until he wins again.
Ryder Cup top eight finalised for Team USA: But who is in the mix for a wilcard pick?
Tiger Woods did his best to fight his way in to the Ryder Cup team next month with his second place finish at the PGA Championship, but it was a move from 20th to 11th – three spots outside of the automatic qualifying. With that process now finalised, there are just a few weeks before Captain Furyk decides his final four players.
So who is in?
Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Webb Simpson.
All eight players are ranked inside the World’s top 20 (including the World’s top 3), with Koepka and Reed winning three of the four majors this year and Webb Simpson taking the Players Championship title.
So who still needs a pick?
Tiger Woods, who is a Vice Captain, needs to be a wildcard pick to get in to the team, but given his recent results and form at the PGA Championship, that one feels like a certainty.
There are four wildcar spots in total, with the likes of Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Matt Kuchar, Kevin Kisner and Tony Finau all needing picks.
It’s a tough decision for Captain Jim Furyk, made all the harder given that Phil, Kuchar and Bryson missed the cut at the PGA Championship. Kisner finished 12th, Schauffele 35th and Finau 42nd.
DeChambeau, Schauffele and Finau would be rookies entering the team. Kisner would be also, but has had experience at the Presidents Cup in 2017, winning three points from four and not losing a single match.
Kuchar has played on four Ryder Cup and four Presidents Cup teams, with a record in Ryder Cup of 6-7-2 and of 6-8-2 in Presidents Cup – having won just one singles match for Team USA out of eight.
Phil Mickelson’s record is even longer. He’s been a fixture on team USA since 1994, having played in 12 President’s Cup teams and 11 Ryder Cup teams. His record in Ryder Cup is 18-20-7, winning 21.5 points over the years. It’s the first time he hasn’t qualified for the US Ryder Cup team on points since 1993.
So who gets the four picks? It’s going to be a close call!
Another major winner without an equipment deal
At one stage in professional golf, the best players in the planet all had equipment deals. But after Nike got out of the equipment game in 2016, some got picked up by other manufacturers, while others decided just to play with a mixed set of clubs they felt suited their game. This year, all three winners of the four major championships haven’t got equipment sponsors: the free agent grand slam.
When Patrick Reed, who swapped Nike for Callaway in 2013 and then left them at the turn of the year, won the Masters, he did it with five different brands in his bag. Reed used a Ping driver, a Nike fairway wood, Titleist and Callaway irons, Titleist and Artisan wedges and an Odyssey putter.
“The biggest thing was I wanted to be different,” Reed had said after his win. “It’s hard to believe that there is one company that makes 14 perfect golf clubs and a perfect golf ball for every player.
“This has freed me up to use whatever equipment I want. On the equipment side, I’m just out there doing my thing. I’m using whatever I want to use.
“I’m able to put 14 golf clubs and a golf ball in the bag that I feel are the perfect fit for me. To do that and come out with my first major, it was a risk. But it was a risk that was the right one.”
Brooks Koepka, who decided not to go with any brand after Nike disbanded, then used the same mixture to win both the US Open and the PGA Championship: A TaylorMade driver, TaylorMade fairway wood, Mizuno irons, Titleist Vokey wedges and a Scotty Cameron putter.
For Molinari, who does have a putter deal with Bettinardi but is a free agent for the remainder of his bag, chose just to use TaylorMade clubs and a Titleist ball during his three wins in five tournaments – one of those being the Open Championship.
With all three players picking up the biggest prizes in professional golf this year, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more players opting for the non-sponsored route to try and get the best fitted bag to their game.
PGA Championship: Numbers you might have missed
11: No of players who made every Major cut in 2018: Justin Rose Rickie Fowler Tony Finau Tommy Fleetwood Francesco Molinari Webb Simpson Zach Johnson Xander Schauffele Tyrrell Hatton Marc Leishman Rafa Cabrera Bello
100: It was not only the 100th PGA Championship, but Davis Love III’s 100th major appearance, and Brooks Koepka’s 100th PGA Tour start.
5: Brooks Koepka is not only the fifth player to win the US Open and PGA Championship in the same year, but is now the fifth American since World War II under the age of 29 to have won three majors
26: The number of drives Brooks Koepka hit that were 320 yards or more this week, most of anyone in the field.
277: The total of shots Ben Kern took over four days, the lowest ever by a club professional in the PGA Championship
266: Tiger Woods 72 hole score was his lowest ever in a major, and lowest total in a major championship by someone who didn’t win (matching Mickelson)
264: Brooks Koepka total ties the lowest 72-hole number in major championship history (Henrik Stenson, 264 at the 2016 Open).