In a remarkable display of skill and resilience, four-time major winner Brooks Koepka defied inclement weather and a chorus of boos from the crowd on Saturday to shoot a second consecutive four-under-par 66, securing a one-stroke lead at the PGA Championship.
Despite being among the US stars who recently made the move to the Saudi-financed LIV Golf League from the PGA Tour, Koepka delivered an outstanding performance at the waterlogged Oak Hill Country Club. His highlight came on the par-4 17th hole, where he sank an impressive 47-foot putt for his fifth birdie, concluding the round at six-under 204.
Koepka’s solid performance edged him ahead of Norway’s Viktor Hovland and Canada’s Corey Conners, both of whom shot a 70 on Saturday, finishing the day at five-under-par 205. LIV’s Bryson DeChambeau secured the fourth spot at four-under 207. Koepka and DeChambeau, two high-profile players associated with the PGA Tour-LIV split, were initially met with boos from the crowd at the first tee. However, they swiftly turned the jeers into cheers through their impressive shot-making skills.
“I love when the fans are on you, cheering for you, or giving you crap if you screw up,” expressed Koepka. “That’s the beauty of it. I want that atmosphere.”
Despite persistent rainfall throughout the day, Koepka managed to birdie the par-5 fourth and the par-3 fifth. He recorded his sole bogey at the seventh hole but swiftly recovered with birdies on the 12th (15 feet) and the par-5 13th (18 feet) before his remarkable 47-foot bomb on the penultimate hole.
Hovland, currently ranked 11th, seemed poised to share the lead in his quest for his first major title. However, a greenside bunker and subsequent bogey on the 18th hole cost him a shot at the top spot. Conners, navigating the challenging water-logged course, demonstrated resilience by making crucial par saves and sinking birdie putts from within four feet at the eighth and nine feet at the par-3 15th. Unfortunately, a double bogey on the 16th hole hindered his progress.
DeChambeau, despite receiving a poor reception at the start, remained undeterred. He recovered from being two-over for the day with a birdie setup from a nearly driven 14th green and an eight-foot birdie putt on the 15th.
Justin Rose’s solid 69 earned him a tie for fifth place with American Scottie Scheffler at four-under 208. Meanwhile, four-time major winner Rory McIlroy shot a roller-coaster round of 69, placing him in seventh position at three-under 209.
Jon Rahm, who triumphed at the Masters last month, recorded a 72 to join Jordan Spieth at even par 216. Spieth produced his best round of the week with a 71.
Brooks Koepka’s outstanding performance in adverse conditions and amidst boos from the crowd has placed him in a prime position to secure victory at the rain-soaked Oak Hill in the PGA Championship. As the tournament unfolds, fans eagerly anticipate more displays of skill and resilience from the top contenders.