Brooks Koepka described his fourth major win in less than two years as his "most satisfying" after stumbling over the line at the PGA Championship.
Koepka looked in danger of throwing away a seven-shot lead on the final day when he bogeyed four in a row after the turn on a dramatic Sunday at Bethpage Black, with his close friend Dustin Johnson closing within one with three to play.
But Johnson followed his birdie at the 15th with consecutive bogeys at 16 and 17 which gave Koepka some much-needed breathing room, and another dropped shot at the 17th from the defending champion mattered little in the outcome.
A scrambled par at the last completed an erratic, closing 74 and a two-shot victory, making him the first player to successfully defend the Wanamaker Trophy since Tiger Woods, and he admitted his stress levels had been alarmingly high down the stretch.
To be standing here today with four majors, it’s mind-blowing, said a relieved Koepka afterwards. But this is definitely the most satisfying out of all of them for how stressful that round was, and how stressful DJ made that. I know for a fact, that was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life ever there on 18.
You’ve just got to hang tough, and it’s been so enjoyable. It was nice to finish on 18, and I’m just glad we didn’t have to play any more holes, that’s for sure.
His playing partner, Harold Varner III, had earlier expressed his concerns over some of the crowd behaviour at Bethpage and claimed many in the galleries were telling Brooks to choke down the stretch.
But Koepka insisted the boisterous spectators actually spurred him on, adding: The hour or so from the 11th to the 14th was interesting. When they started chanting ‘DJ, DJ’ on 14, it actually kind of helped, to be honest with you.
I think it helped me kind of refocus and hit a good one down 15. I think that was probably the best thing that could have happened. It was very, very stressful, the last hour and a half of that round. That’s why I let a big sigh of relief go at the end.
I had a one-shot lead when I got to the 15th fairway, then I saw DJ missed a putt on 16 and I knew I had two. I felt like as long as I had the lead, I was fine. I felt like, as long as I put it in the fairway, I was going to be all right. I was striking it well. I was putting it well and hitting my lines.
From there, you’ve got to reset. I just knew if I could make pars coming in, I’ll be just fine. It was definitely a test, but I never thought about failing. I was trying my butt off. If I would have bogeyed all the way in, you know, I still would have looked at it as I tried my hardest.
That’s all I can do. Sometimes that’s all you’ve got. You know, even if I had lost, I guess you could say I choked it away. I tried my tail off just to even make par and kind of right the ship.
But I never once thought about it. I always felt like once I had the lead, you know, he’s going to make one more birdie and I’ve got to make a bogey for this thing to kind of switch.
I think hitting my tee shot down the middle of the fairway on 15 definitely helped ease a little bit of the tension, knowing that that pin was kind of in a gettable spot, but then hit a terrible wedge shot. I don’t know how you miss that slope, but I did.
Koepka will now head to Pebble Beach aiming for a hat-trick of US Open titles, and he will arrive at the iconic California venue with confidence at a peak after a two-year stretch he described as phenomenal.
I think that’s a good word, he said. Yeah, it’s been a hell of a run. It’s been fun, and I’m trying not to let it stop. It’s super enjoyable, and just try to ride that momentum going into Pebble. That’s four majors out of the last eight? I like the way that sounds.