Koepka enters the PGA Championship ready to move on after "choking" at the Masters
Difficult as it might be to acknowledge, Brooks Koepka is not too proud in admitting to “choking” at The Masters last month.
Koepka first used the word during a Barstool Sports podcast, in which he said his motivation was to beat the hosts to the punch by saying he choked first before they had a chance.
The two-time PGA Championship (2018, ’19) and U.S. Open (2017, ’18) winner had a four-shot lead as the weather-delayed third-round resumed, and was up by two in opening the fourth round. Koepka then proceeded to shoot a 3-over 75 in losing to Jon Rahm, and finishing tied for second with LIV Golf compatriot Phil Mickelson.
As for whether he believes the word “choke” applies, Koepka didn’t waver on Wednesday.
“Theoretically, yes, it is. It is choking, right? If you have a lead and cough it up, that’s choking,” Koepka said, noting he didn’t sleep that Sunday night while reflecting on what happened.
The time for reflection is long over, he added, by noting three of his major wins have come when leading through 54 holes.
“I’m not dwelling on it,” Koepka said. “I can’t do it every single time. I’m not perfect. As long as I can learn from it, I’ll be better off from it.”
A TALE OF TWO FITZPATRICKS
Reigning U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick believes he's a completely different golfer than the one who made his PGA Championship debut in 2016 with a tie for 49th at Baltusrol.
The length at the majors at the PGA and U.S. Open were too much to overcome earlier in his career. He found the distance he needed late in 2020 and last summer put on a clinic to win at The Country Club.
While the physical change was important, so was the addition of caddie Billy Foster in 2019. The well-traveled Foster gave Fitzpatrick a needed boost of confidence, while also taking him down a notch when necessary.
“He tells me (I'm) better than probably what I think I am, and also brings me back down to earth if I’m getting ahead of myself,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think (the) Billy addition was huge.”
STAY IN YOUR LANE
One product of Oak Hill removing hundreds of trees during the restoration project was the potential of players hitting their drives to the right into the seventh fairway to avoid Allen’s Creek.
Whatever their intentions, it’s no longer an option. The PGA of America has posted signage that a shot from the sixth tee that goes into the seventh fairway will be declared out-of-bounds.
Internal OB is rare, but not unprecedented. Royal Portrush had it on the opening hole for the 2019 British Open.
Kerry Haigh, the PGA’s chief championships officer in charge of setting up the course, said the same rule was in effect for the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Hill in 2019.
It wasn’t just to keep players from not playing the hole the way it was meant to be played. Haigh also said pace of play was also a consideration, meaning players might have to wait on the other fairway to clear.
Dustin Johnson blamed his sluggish start to his season with LIV Golf on a pulled back muscle he tweaked before going to play in Saudi Arabia.
The injury sidelined him for several weeks, though he arrived at the East Course coming off a win at the LIV stop in Tulsa last Sunday.
Asked if he was injured lifting one of the two kids he has with wife Paulina, Johnson smiled.
“Yeah, lifting up a kid,” he said with a laugh. “Just a bigger kid.”
CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz will forever have a place overseeing Oak Hill’s 13th hole.
On Wednesday, Nantz was honored by being presented with a bronze plaque which will be mounted on a tree lining the golf course’s Hill of Fame.
On a day he celebrated his 64th birthday, Nantz became the 46th person to be inducted, and joins a group that includes Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Annika Sorenstam, Nancy Lopez and President Dwight Eisenhower.
Nantz has spent his entire career at CBS, after being hired in 1985 to work as both a studio host for college football and basketball coverage, an on-course PGA Tour reporter.
Among those on hand for the ceremony honoring Nantz were Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and newly retired Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boehiem.
AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed to this report.
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