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.”


Thuram brace powers Gladbach to 4-1 victory over Berlin

Updated 24 min 44 sec ago

Thuram brace powers Gladbach to 4-1 victory over Berlin

  • The French striker takes knee in show of solidarity with protests in US

BERLIN: Borussia Moenchengladbach routed Union Berlin 4-1 on Sunday behind closed doors with French striker Marcus Thuram scoring twice and taking a knee in protest at the death of an unarmed black man in the US.

First half goals by midfielder Florian Neuhaus, who bagged Gladbach’s 3,000th goal in the Bundesliga, and Thuram put Gladbach 2-0 up at the break.

Union’s Swedish striker Sebastian Andersson pulled one back early in the second half after being left unmarked.

However, Gladbach pulled away when Thuram added his second after pressing the Union defense.

The 22-year-old French striker then took a knee on the Borussia Park turf, imitating NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

It was the latest show of Bundesliga solidarity with the current protests sweeping the US.

Schalke’s US midfielder Weston McKennie wore an armband in Saturday’s defeat to Werder Bremen bearing the words “Justice for George.” 

George Floyd, 46, died in Minneapolis in an arrest by a police officer who pinned him to the ground for several minutes by kneeling on his neck.

On Sunday, Alassane Plea grabbed a goal of his own for Gladbach, having set up Thuram’s first, when he fired home off his left foot on 81 minutes to beat Union goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz.

After a 3-1 defeat to Leverkusen last weekend, and a goalless draw with relegation-threatened Werder Bremen on Tuesday, this was an important win for Gladbach.

It lifted them to third in the table, but RB Leipzig can take their place if they win at Cologne on Monday.

On Saturday, reigning champions Bayern Munich opened a 10-point lead with a 5-0 thrashing of Fortuna Duesseldorf with the league’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski netting twice.

 

Hungarian fans return to stadiums after lockdown

Fans returned to Hungarian football stadia at the weekend after a two-month break due to the coronavirus, a first in Europe where other leagues have resumed behind closed doors.

The Hungarian Football Association (MLSZ) decided Thursday to allow clubs let fans in for the first time since March on condition that every second row in stadia remains empty, and that only every fourth seat is occupied.

Outside the Diosgyor club stadium in the northeastern city of Miskolc Saturday before its game with Mezokovesd their supporters said they were glad to be back and meet fellow fans again.

“We’ll keep the rules as there could be closed-doors games again if we screw up,” said Richard Kovacs, 36.

Some 2,255 spectators attended the game, one of six to take place in Hungary at the weekend, with the stands speckled with scattered fans.

“The virus hasn’t disappeared so we must keep the distance,” said 18-year-old student Csaba Gasparics wearing a Diosgyor facemask.

“We are only worried if we win or loses, not about the epidemic,” said Gabor Lengyel, 41.

Apart from in Budapest where Hungary’s biggest club Ferencvaros has a large fan base, typical crowds are small with a nationwide average last season of around 3,000.

“We were already maintaining social distancing in the stadiums very well,” one web user joked after the MLSZ announcement.

Other European countries that have relaunched their leagues in May, or are about to do so, are playing behind closed doors.

Hungary, which has a population of 9.8 million, had by Sunday recorded 3,876 cases and 526 deaths in the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions have gradually been eased across the country and Budapest fully reopened its bars and restaurants on the weekend.