Berliner TageBlatt - Koepka clings to PGA lead in bid for fifth major, landmark LIV win

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Koepka clings to PGA lead in bid for fifth major, landmark LIV win
Koepka clings to PGA lead in bid for fifth major, landmark LIV win / Foto: © AFP

Koepka clings to PGA lead in bid for fifth major, landmark LIV win

Four-time major winner Brooks Koepka clung to a one-stroke lead midway through Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship, moving closer to becoming the first player to win a major while with Saudi-backed LIV Golf.


The 33-year-old American reeled off three birdies in a row but made two bogeys also to stand on seven-under par as he finished the front nine at Oak Hill with Norway's Viktor Hovland, seeking his first major win, second on six-under.

Second-ranked American Scottie Scheffler, last year's Masters winner, was third on four-under.

Koepka was among the stars who jumped from the PGA Tour to breakaway LIV Golf, which offered record $25 million purses for 54-hole events, despite concern over Saudi Arabia's human rights record.

The PGA banned LIV talent from its events, with a legal fight between them due in court next May. In the meantime, the majors provide the only outlet for competition between players from the rival tours.

In all, there were six major winners from LIV in the field of 156 with a combined 15 major crowns, but none captured as a member of the upstart circuit, not even Australian Cam Smith's British Open title last July.

Smith had, who finished on one-under 279 after a closing five-under 65, dismissed LIV players winning majors as news.

"I gave up on that narrative about six months ago," Smith said. "I think there's been a few guys that have been trying to kick it along a little bit.

"We're still out there. We haven't forgot how to play golf. We're all great golfers out there, and we know what we can do, and I think that's what we're trying to do."

There were no boos off the first tee for Koepka, who heard them Saturday before turning them to roars in shooting a 66.

- Koepka healthy again -

Koepka, healthy after 2021 knee surgery that hampered most of his past two seasons, made four-foot birdie putts at the second and par-3 third and birdied the par-5 fourth from just inside nine feet.

At six, Koepka's tee shot went into a penalty area and he two-putted for bogey. At seven, he missed the green with his approach and made bogey but kept the lead when Hovland bogeyed.

Koepka led entering the final round at last month's Masters but, in his words, "choked" away the green jacket to Spain's top-ranked Jon Rahm.

After sharing second at Augusta National with LIV's Phil Mickelson, Kopeka could claim a third career PGA Championship. Only Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Walter Hagen have won more.

Scheffler, who would overtake Rahm for world number one with a triumph, birdied seven and eight and answered a bogey at nine with a birdie to begin his back nine.

Australia's Cam Davis, Canada's Corey Conners and Americans Kurt Kitayama and Bryson DeChambeau shared fourth on three-under.

Austrian Sepp Straka had the clubhouse lead on two-under 278 after a closing 65.

Also on two-under were France's Victor Perez and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy.

The world number three from Northern Ireland, trying to win his first major title since 2014, had four birdies and three bogeys through 12 holes.