Brooks Koepka won the 100th PGA Championship with a final-round 66 to finish at 16-under par 264, two shots clear of Tiger Woods (-14) who roared up the leader board on Sunday capped off by a vintage-Tiger birdie on the 72nd hole.
The win was Koepka’s fourth career PGA Tour victory, and second major of the season, joining Tiger Woods (2000), Jack Nicklaus (1980), Ben Hogan (1948), and Gene Sarazen (1922) as the only players in history to win the U.S. Open and PGA in the same season.
If he wasn’t before, the 28-year old Koepka is now a legit superstar and is one of only three players under the age of 30 with multiple major titles – the others being Rory McIlroy (29, 4) and Jordan Spieth (25, 3).
After his win at Bellerive, Koepka met with the media to take some questions. Here’s a round up of six of the best from the Q & A session.
1. OVERCOMING ROUGH STRETCH
Brooks, congratulations on the victory. Can you comment on your mindset going on to the 6th tee after bogeying holes 4 and 5, how you were able to overcome the adversity to go 5 under the last 13 holes?
KOEPKA: My thought was, don’t bogey this one too. We hit it in the water on Thursday. I actually hit a great shot. I knew a little long wasn’t too bad. I needed to right the ship, and I hit probably one of the worst putts I’ve hit all week on that hole to run it, what, maybe about eight feet by.
2. KEEPING COMPOSURE
The first time you were in the hunt for a Major at Erin Hills, during a pressure moment, I think you and Rickie were talking about which Asian beach to go to later in the year. When it’s that many people and that loud out there, and you can hear it, mostly for Tiger, can you give us a hint of what your pulse is like, and did you ever get rattled at all?
KOEPKA: I never got frustrated. I think maybe the most frustrated I was, was when I missed that short one on 4. I just, for some reason today, I didn’t quite have the touch on the greens. I left quite a few putts short.
I felt like the greens were a tad bit slower than the putting green, because I thought the putting green got a little faster. I was even hitting uphill ones — or downhill ones, and they still weren’t quite getting to the hole. Just a little bit of touch today on the greens.
But I mean, I was very impressed with the way I hung in there, especially after 5. But to hear some of these roars, I mean, I can’t even begin to tell you.
3. THE FINAL PUTT AT 18
Brooks, can you talk about the moment on the 18th green when you decided to putt before Scotty putted out, and what did he say to you when you did that?
KOEPKA: Yeah, well, it was kind of — it was so short, first off, and then the fact of I’ve got — it was kind of — I didn’t want it to be in his way because I knew he’d be looking at it. It was so close to the hole, I didn’t want to take away from anything that he was doing because I knew he needed to make the putt, and I kind of wanted to get out of his way.
Otherwise, if I’d have hit it six, eight inches further and not directly behind the hole, I probably would have marked it. But just for the fact that it was in his sight line when he’s looking at the hole, especially right with the way it breaks coming up left to right, I just didn’t want him staring at it.
4. THE ST. LOUIS CROWDS
Brooks, a lot has been said and written about the crowds out here this weekend. As champion, do you have any thoughts on how the galleries have been here at Bellerive?
KOEPKA: They’ve been amazing. 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.
But to make that come back, it actually made it feel like I made a birdie. That could have been the turning point for me to kind of right the ship and to make those three birdies coming up.
5. THE TIGER ROAR
Brooks, you mentioned Tiger making the run. Could you hear the roars, and what was your reaction to that? Clearly, you seemed pretty calm about it.
KOEPKA: I couldn’t hear it (joking). I mean, everybody on the golf course heard it. It was actually quite funny. You could hear the roars when we were on 10 and 11, and then you could kind of hear it trickle down as they changed the leaderboards all the way through.
You could hear a different roar like every 30 seconds. So we knew what was going on. It’s pretty obvious when Tiger makes a birdie. I think everybody at the golf course cheers for him. I’m sure everyone is rooting for him.
You know, I remember the loudest roar I think I’ve heard was when I was hitting my putt on 8. I don’t know, did he birdie 9? Yeah, he birdied 9. When he made that putt, and I was over it, and everybody’s roaring, I’m like, all right, just make this one and try to get through that. But I mean, the roars — the crowd was unbelievable with the amount of people that were out here is incredible.
6. BOYHOOD IDOLS ADAM & TIGER
Brooks, would you share a story of being an Adam Scott fan growing up, what it was like, describe what it was like to have your two childhood idols breathing down your throat and then beating them?
KOEPKA: Surreal, that’s all I can say. I remember when I watched Adam win at the PLAYERS, I think — I was so mad when he hit it in the water, I was probably as mad as he was or upset because I was rooting so hard. I loved his golf swing. He’s got the best golf swing ever, I think. It’s so pretty to watch. He’s one of the nicest guys once you meet him too. He really is.
And then, I mean, Tiger for obvious reasons. As a kid growing up, that’s the whole reason that all of us, or people in my generation are even playing golf was because of him. And to duel it out with them, it’s pretty neat. I don’t think I ever dreamed of that, that situation that I was in today.