Koepka survives mini-collapse to win back-to-back PGA titles

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Brooks Koepka plays from the rough on the 13th hole during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bethpage State Park, NEW YORK. (Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports)
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Brooks Koepka celebrates after winning the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black on Sunday. (AP)
Updated 21 May 2019

Koepka survives mini-collapse to win back-to-back PGA titles

  • Koepka almost squandered his seven-shot lead in final round
  • Aside from defending his title, he also displaced Dustin Johnson as world No. 1 

NEW YORK: A coronation almost turned into a calamity but Brooks Koepka survived to win the PGA Championship for a second consecutive year on Sunday and establish himself as golf’s new top dog.

The American, who had held a seven-stroke lead at the start of the final round, almost lost control of the title when he made four successive bogeys from the 11th hole before staving off Dustin Johnson for a two-stroke victory at Bethpage Black.

Koepka shot a 4-over par 74 to finish at eight-under 272 and captured his fourth major title in his last eight starts in grand slam events.

Johnson (69) was second on 6-under, with Americans Jordan Spieth and Patrick Cantlay and Britain’s Matt Wallace four strokes further back tied for third.

What had seemed for much of the tournament to be a coronation almost became a calamity on Sunday, to the delight of most of the raucous New York gallery, who were openly cheering against Koepka as he walked off the 14th green with a tenuous one-stroke lead.

He has played with a chip on his shoulder his entire career, and hearing chants in his face of “D.J., D.J.” only served to fire him up as he walked down the steep hill and across Round Swamp Road to the 15th tee at Bethpage Black.

Johnson was playing the adjacent 16th hole when the chants went up after Koepka’s mini-collapse.

“I wasn’t nervous. I was just in shock at what was going on,” Koepka said. “When they started chanting D.J. on 14, it actually kind of helped.

“That was probably the best thing that could have happened ... helped me refocus and hit a good one down 15.”

Koepka’s playing companion Harold Varner III, however, was annoyed by the crowd reaction.

“I thought it was pretty weird how they were telling Brooks to choke,” Varner said.

“That’s not my cup of tea. I was pulling for him after that. I have a few choice words for that. Just cheering for him to do bad, I just don’t get that.”

Johnson, however, subsequently bogeyed the 16th after misjudging his approach shot in the strong and gusty winds and the lead was back up to two strokes.

In becoming the first champion to lead wire-to-wire since Hal Sutton in 1983, Koepka successfully defended his title and also displaced Johnson as world No. 1 

Koepka, who also won back-to-back US Open titles in 2017-18, admitted his run of bogeys had put him under pressure.

“Tell you what, the hour spent from No. 11 to 14 was interesting,” Koepka said. “I just got stuck in a bogey train. I just made mistakes at the wrong time.

“You’ve got to hit good drives and I put it in the rough. I challenge anyone to play this course in 15-to 20 miles-per-hour winds and see what they shoot.

“Today was definitely the most satisfying out of all of them for how stressful that round was, how stressful D.J. made it.”

“I know for a fact, that was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life ... on 18.”


Neymar future remains up in the air as PSG reject Madrid offer

Updated 23 August 2019

Neymar future remains up in the air as PSG reject Madrid offer

  • Paris club said to turn down an offer from Barcelona of €40 million plus Coutinho and Rakitic

PARIS: Neymar remains no closer to getting his desired move away from Paris Saint-Germain amid reports Thursday the French club have rejected an offer from Real Madrid of €100 million($111 million) plus players.

French sports daily L’Equipe said Real had offered cash plus Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and goalkeeper Keylor Navas, but PSG turned it down because “the overall value of the offer did not match their expectations.” 

Paris paid €222 million to sign Neymar from Barcelona two years ago and their sporting director Leonardo is understood to be determined to only sell the forward for a deal considered to be of the same value.

Real have spent the summer trying to offload Bale, while James is unwanted after returning from a loan at Bayern Munich and Navas is no longer the club’s first-choice goalkeeper.

Meanwhile, Barcelona remain hopeful of bringing Neymar back to the Camp Nou, but Catalan daily Sport claims an attempt to sign the player on loan with an obligation to buy for €160 million at the end of the season has been firmly rejected in Paris.

Sport claims Barcelona feel “it is very clear that PSG are trying to prevent the Brazilian from returning to the Camp Nou in any scenario.” 

PSG had previously reportedly turned down an offer from Barcelona of €40 million  plus Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Rakitic. Coutinho has since joined Bayern on loan.

Juventus are also believed to have stated an interest in signing the 27-year-old, who has not featured in any of PSG’s matches so far this season having been frozen out amid the uncertainty over his future. The transfer window closes in France, Spain and Italy on Sept. 2, meaning time is fast running out for a deal to be done.

Watford loan Sweden winger Sema to Udinese

Watford winger Ken Sema has completed a season-long loan move to Udinese, the Serie A side confirmed on Thursday.

The six-times capped Sweden international only moved to Vicarage Road last summer from Ostersunds FK and made 22 appearances for the English club.

The 25-year-old's departure follows the arrival of Senegal international Ismaila Sarr to the Premier League outfit on a club record transfer of €35 million   ($38 million) from Rennes. The northeastern Italian club and Watford are both owned by the Pozzo family.

Udinese host AC Milan in their opening match of the Serie A season on Saturday.