SAN FRANCISCO – Maybe Brooks Koepka should have followed the old golf adage — as tired as it may be — and let his clubs do the talking.
A day after he raised eyebrows by suggesting some of his fellow players might not be up to the task of winning the PGA Championship, Koepka wasn’t either. He imploded on the front nine Sunday with three straight bogeys and lost his chance at his fifth major championship.
On Saturday Koepka noted that third-round leader Dustin Johnson had only won one major. “I like my chances,” Koepka said. “When I’ve been in this position before, I’ve capitalized. I don’t know, he’s won only one.”
Rory McIlroy came to Johnson’s defense Sunday.
“If you’ve won a major championship, you’re a hell of a player,” McIlroy said. “Doesn’t mean you’ve only won one. You’ve won one, and you’ve had to do a lot of good things to do that.
“Sort of hard to knock a guy that’s got 21 wins on the PGA Tour, which is three times what Brooks has.”
Koepka, meanwhile, was on his way to the airport after shrugging it off as just another day on the links.
“I mean, it’s my first bad round in a while in a major,” he said.
The good news for him is there’s another major just around the corner, the same U.S. Open he’s already won twice. The Masters will be in November.
Quietly, an ace
Byeong Hun An made the first hole-in-one of the tournament, landing his tee shot on No. 11 about 15 feet from the hole before it bounced a few times and rolled the last 3 feet.
Usually golfers figure out they shot an ace from the cheering galleries. But with no spectators allowed at Harding Park because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was the scream of a lone volunteer that got the message to An on the tee box 189 yards away.
He belatedly threw up his arms in celebration and had a chuckle with playing partner Sepp Straka.
“Judging by his reaction, it’s got to be,” Straka said.
Woods waits to see
Tiger Woods doesn’t know how the strange, compressed schedule will affect him for the rest of the year.
Then again, no one else does, either.
“No one has ever experienced this, having a shutdown during the year,” Woods said as he looked ahead to the FedEx Cup playoffs that will be followed two weeks later by the U.S. Open. “It is very different. This is unlike any other year that we’ve ever experienced in golf.”
Woods shot a 3-under 67 on Sunday to finish the tournament at 1 under par.
Woods will take next week off before the three-week stretch of the playoffs that begin outside of Boston on Aug. 20; the U.S. Open, which was postponed from June, will be two weeks after the tour championship.
Although the schedule is new for everyone, it will be a special challenge for Woods, who at 44 has a balky back and hasn’t played on back-to-back weekends since the President’s Cup in December.
“We’ve been training for that. Trying to get my strength and endurance up to that ability to making sure that I can handle that type of workload,” Woods said. “We’ll be pushing it hard to make sure that I can stay strong and have the endurance to keep on going.”
The end was near
Tied for the lead while standing on the 17th tee, Paul Casey heard what passed for a commotion on the largely silent, fan-free golf course.
He looked behind him and realized his hopes of winning the PGA Championship had suddenly, startlingly vanished.
Collin Morikawa’s drive had stopped 7 feet away, just behind Casey, on the 16th green. It set up an eagle that dropped Casey two shots behind with two holes to play Sunday. What had been a jammed leaderboard turned into Morikawa’s tournament to lose.
He didn’t, and Casey had nothing to do but tip his cap.
“What a shot,” Casey said when asked what went through his mind when he saw Morikawa’s ball come to rest.
The 43-year-old Englishman shot a 66 to finish at 11 under, tied for second and two shots behind the champion.
Casey is now 0-for-64 in majors, the longest current drought out there. But this was not, in his mind, a day to focus on that.
“I played wonderful golf, simple as that,” Casey said. “And watching Collin come down ... and what a shot he hit on 16. He deserves it.”