US PGA Championship 2023: Brooks Koepka leads with Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose in touch




Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka is a four-time major champion

Two-time champion Brooks Koepka takes a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the US PGA Championship with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy among a stellar group of contenders at Oak Hill.

American Koepka, winner in 2018 and 2019, compiled a four-under 66 in heavy rain to move to six under overall.

Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners are one shot adrift at five under, two ahead of Bryson DeChambeau.

Rose and Scottie Scheffler are four back, with McIlroy five behind.

Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who secured the last of his four major titles at this championship in 2014, often found himself battling his own swing as well as some miserable on-course conditions.

The world number three started fast with two birdies in his first five holes but three bogeys in his next four threatened to derail his round.

However, three birdies on the back nine helped him post a creditable one-under par 69 for a second successive day.

England’s Rose, whose solitary major triumph arrived a decade ago at the US Open also carded a 69 in a round that was underscored by several superb long putts.

South California club professional Michael Block, who was playing with Rose, impressed again as he completed another eventful round at level par to remain in the top 10 and six strokes off the lead.

Brutal conditions add further layer of difficulty

Saturday’s third round got under way in dreadful conditions as torrential rain added another layer of difficulty to Oak Hill’s already punishing East Course.

World number one Jon Rahm was one of those to initially suffer in the deluge which made the rough even tougher to escape from and reduced the length of drives by up to 30 yards for those who were precise enough to find the fairway off the tee.

The Spaniard, who won the Masters in April, recorded six bogeys in his first 10 holes but back-to-back birdies on the 13th and 14th, one on the 17th plus one on the 622-yard par-five fourth saw him post a 72 and he is at six over par.

Others including the 2005 and 2021 US PGA champion, Phil Mickelson, were not as fortunate.

The 52-year-old, who has remarkably made 100 cuts in 119 appearances at the majors, endured a difficult day, carding a birdie-free 75 which left him on 10 over par in his 30th appearance at the championship.

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters bucked the trend slighty with four birdies in the first five holes before dropping back and signing for a level-par 70.

And England’s Tyrrell Hatton went one better thanks to birdies on the 12th and 13th during an impressive back nine of 33.

Koepka turns jeers to cheers

A chorus of boos greeted Koepka and his playing partner Bryson DeChambeau on the first tee because the pair ditched the PGA Tour to join the Saudi Arabian-backed LIV Golf set-up.

However, by the time the 33-year-old rattled in a 47-foot birdie putt on the 17th those jeers had long since been replaced by cheers.

Koepka, who has also won two US Open titles, has spoken openly about “choking” at last month’s Masters, where he was four shots clear of eventual winner Jon Rahm when play was suspended due to bad weather in the third round.

And while he will still have to come through a stern examination on Sunday, given the talent at the top of the leaderboard, his form, fitness and mental fortitude will make him a tough opponent to overcome.

Back-to back birdies on the fourth and fifth, showcased his powerful hitting and superb iron play and while he bogeyed the seventh he stayed patient and was rewarded on the 12th and 13th holes as the conditions eased.

More to follow.


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