The great Brooks Koepka procession turned into the Great Brooks Koepka recession here last night as he threatened to blow the biggest final-round lead in 159 years of the majors. Yet after seeing a seven-shot advantage reduced to one by his close friend Dustin Johnson in a manic denouement, the American hung on to retain his USPGA title and make history for the right reasons.
At the age of 29, Koepka became the first player ever to defend the US Open and the USPGA successfully, going where even the greats of his profession have not dared to tread. This was Koepka’s fourth major win from the last eight he has played, and only Tiger Woods has accomplished such a run in the past five decades.
The record books will show the new world No1 as the most dominant force in this era, yet perhaps this victory should come with an asterisk. Because, believe it, this was Jean van de Velde and Greg Norman with a happy ending.
So much for Koepka being impervious. Nobody could be when playing Bethpage Black in the winds that arrived on cue in the final hours to cause utter mayhem. Credit to Johnson, who closed to within one with four to play. Yes, he dropped shots on the 16th and 17th, but Johnson was the only one of the last 24 players to shoot under par. His 69 for six-under overall was a phenomenal effort in these circumstances. Koepka was a very relieved man when he tapped in for a 74 and an eight-under score.
“I’m just glad I didn’t have to play more holes,” Koepka said. “DJ played awesome and really put the pressure on me. I heard from the crowd everything that was happening. I never dreamed I’d be holding this Wanamaker Trophy again for a second year running. It’s so cool.”
Despite his bogey on the first, it seemed that normal subservience had been resumed for the rest when Koepka birdied the par-five fourth when hitting the green in two. And even when Johnson reached the turn in three-under - courtesy of birdies on the fourth, sixth and nine, the latter after a sumptuous wedge from 160 yards to hole’s side - Koepka still enjoyed a five-shot advantage that soon became six, when he conjured his own wedge from 155 yards to two feet. Surely it was over. Message to inscriber: “K.O.E.P.K.A”
But there followed one of the most remarkable passages in the 103 years of the USPGA. It began with an innocuous bogey when Koepka hit his tee-shot into a fairway bunker on the 11th. No dramas. Still five ahead. A few gasps were audible when he sliced into the rough on the 12th. Koepka took his medicine, laid up, but failed to get up and down from 65 yards. Interesting. Nothing more.
The gasps turned to full-blown squeals when he wildly hooked off the par-five 13th tee. Koepka actually caught a break, as his ball was so wide it flew over the worst of the cabbage. Yet he could not capitalise on his good fortune, when missing a five-footer for par. With Johnson making a birdie on the 15th for the fourth day in a row, there were only two in it. The gusts were rising, blowing up to 35 mph, and the New York galleries were suddenly interested. “DJ, DJ,” they chanted, not because they wanted to witness a Koepka downfall. Just because …
Koepka’s face portrayed no emotion, but his nerves were clearly scattered. A rush of adrenalin forced him to fly the 14th green and the resulting chip was also too strong, rolling past the pin and off the green. From there, the best Koepka could do was cajole it to four feet and at that moment the leaderboard was stark. Miss that and it was square.
Yet Koepka somehow squeezed the ball into the cup and up ahead Bethpage was turning back from foe into friend. Johnson missed the 16th green from 195 yards and it was his turn to fall victim to the dry mouth and shaky hands. That bogey was followed by another on the 17th. He pushed his tee shot into the greenside rough and again could not rescue a par. Just to keep Bethpage alert - as if it was not already wired - Koepka bogeyed the 17th, Johnson made a great up and down on the 18th before Koepka found the rough above a bunker off the last tee. He was two ahead and could afford to take a bogey, but he took away all of his, and our, stress by playing a fine wedge to five feet. When he holed for par, his fist-pump said it all.
England’s Matt Wallace enjoyed the best major finish of his ever advancing career by finishing on two-under in a tie for third alongside former world No1 Jordan Spieth and another American in Patrick Cantlay. Wallace put himself in contention for second - and if he had known it at the time for the win as well - when playing his first 11 holes in one-under to move to five-under.
A double-bogey on the 12th derailed his challenge but he did well to keep it together, completing his last six in one-over, when he could so easily have fallen apart in the severity of the test. The 29-year-old from London was one of only six players under par and was rightly proud.
Also in the top 10 for Ireland was the pair of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry. Their pair of 69s hauled them from a tie for 26th into a tie for eighth when the conditions worsened as they rested in the clubhouse. Granted, McIlroy, is the world No4, Granted, he arrived on Long Island with much grander ambitions, but this was his best placing in a major since last year’s second at the Open at Carnoustie and there is optimism to take forward for his tilt at the US Open next month.
That had some feeling
It had looked like Koepka would stroll to this title for much of the past four days, but he had one hell of a wobble today, and the relief was plain to see as he punched the air after holing that final putt. Well played, Brooks. A thoroughly deserved victory.
BROOKS KOEPKA WINS THE USPGA CHAMPIONSHIP
He only needs one shot, and Koepka is the champion in Bethpage!
Two shots for the title
Koepka is in the driving seat. He just has to wait for Mr Varner to take his putt. Varner takes it in two.
Stumbling over the finish line
Having scraped his way out of the rough, Koepka is thinking loooong and hard about his next shot. His lead has been slashed and he doesn't have a lot of leeway to play with any more. Here goes... it's a lovely shot! A few feet from the pin and he can relax now. That is surely that!
Wayward from Koepka!
It is in the rough on the left. It isn't over...
An awful slice from Harold Varner III
+11 for him today. Not what he would have wanted.
That one is in
Two shots. One hole.
Koepka starts it right of the hole and it never comes back. A push at the worst possible time.
The next one is not a gimme, either.
Koepka sidles one down
Far from dead, but another conservative putt to within striking distance.
In and the win is surely his...
In the putt goes
But it looks like another near miss for Dustin Johnson, failing to grasp the opportunity with victory seemingly there for the taking.
Johnson has now finished as runner-up at all four majors. The nearly-man.
Johnson chips well
It is a par at best but that is a lovely chip from Dustin Johnson, whose short game has been solid all day, particularly from that range within 20 yards of the green.
It is on the green
That's all that matters, really.
Johnson is all over the place...
On 18, another woeful iron shot, and the fat lady is warming up her vocal chords.
To the 17th tee, and Brooks Koepka.
Close enough. Tap-in par
A positive strike of the ball, and down towards the hole the ball rumbles. It rolls three feet past, but the nerves are settled, the hands steady, and in Koepka's pops the par putt.
Two holes from back-to-back USPGA Championships.
Koepka finds the green on 16
Any other round of golf and you'd be disappointed with that approach, but the situation demands caution and it is caution with which Koepka plays here, front and centre on the dancefloor.
Johnson's drive on 18 is in the thick stuff
He comes off it too early, perhaps weary after the day's rigours, and to the right it goes.
Odds and ends
Patrick Cantlay has come home with a 71 and is currently tied for third with Spieth and...
Matt Wallace, who has bogeyed 17.
Gary Woodland has signed for a 68, the low round of the day, to finish +1 for the tournament.
Two bogeys in a row for Dustin Johnson, and the championship is back in Brooks Koepka's steadying hands.
The putt dipped left off the hole. The lead is three.
Johnson leaves his chip short
The momentum is swinging back Koepka's way. Another error from Dustin Johnson.
His chip doesn't quite make it to the slope that would take it down to the hole, leaving him a very, very tough par putt with a couple of slopes to negotiate. Miss and this might be over.
Polite applause from the crowd, and a nerve-settler for Brooks Koepka.
Koepka dribbles it down
Conservatively played, content to leave it short for fear of a vicious slope down to and beyond the hole, and that should, and I stress should, be a much-needed par.
Off-line on 17
Just over 200 yards, the 17th today, and Johnson has got all of that and a little more, something of a slice taking the ball deep and right of the flag.
Work to do for even a par.
Close, but no cigar
120 yards to play for Brooks Koepka...
Another attempt to dance one into the right spot but he is off the mark, only by a yard-or-so, but enough to miss the curvature of the putting surface and stay on the top level, with a tough nibbler down the hill awaiting him as he climbs up to the elevated green.
Jordan Spieth closes with a 71
It won't be the career grand slam for Jordan Spieth, but he finishes at -2 for the tournament and that may well be enough for another major top-five.
Dustin Johnson misses par putt
An error from DJ!
Away to the right the ball breaks, away a shot goes.
The lead is opened again. That's a huge miss.
Just the fifth fairway find of the day for Brooks Koepka, and that's his best from the tee for a good while, in just about perfect position.
His caddy, Ricky Elliott, is giving him plenty of encouragement as he walks from the tee shot, still long of stride but without the zest and zeal of his front nine gait.
That's more like it
Deft, controlled and just as the situation demanded from Dustin Johnson, with a very make-able par putt after a nice chip.
Johnson fails to seize the opportunity.
Dustin. Dustin Dustin Dustin.
Solid golf might be all that is required with Koepka imploding but Johnson doesn't know that and chances his arm with an airy approach on the 16th that catches the breeze and carries the back of the green.
He clings on for bogey, remarkably his fourth in successive holes.
The lead has been eroded down to just one.
Bogey at best
The par putt is away. The crowd are chanting the challenger's name.
The battle has swung. Koepka needs to rally.
Another sloppy shot...
Koepka, from the back, out of the rough...
Thin. Too thin. On to the fringe at the front.
Harold Varner III update
If you were wondering what has happened to Koepka's playing partner through all of this, Varner is currently +8 for the day and in real trouble again.
Wobbling like a weeble - Koepka is choking!
He's absolutely smoked his tee shot on 14, but it is too far!
Out the back...
Roars on 15 - Johnson has a birdie!
A calm, composed move of the club towards the ball, just enough of a nudge to get it to the front of the cup and down the plughole it plunges.
The margin is two...
Koepka misses the par putt
He tried to push it through any potential break but caught the rim, and the pace on the putt meant it stayed out.
A bogey. A third on the bounce. Down to -10, and he looks nervous. Very.
Birdie chance for Johnson
Holding in the breeze, coming back towards the flag late and taking the slope to move closer.
A birdie chance indeed.
Decent from Koepka
Not quite Dustin Johnson, but a sound enough putt. Par should be made.
Talking of Johnson...
159 yards from the rough
And Brooks Koepka's third isn't quite there, falling short of the wind.
He's in a very similar spot to Dustin Johnson, and will need an equally solid two-putt for par.
Matt Wallace alone in third
Jazz Janewattananond has dropped another shot, which means, for the time being at least, Matt Wallace is alone in third place.
And he celebrates with a well-controlled wedge on to the 15th green which should secure him par.
A seven or an eight iron, taking his medicine and getting it on or just off the fairway.
Disaster averted, it seems, for Brooks Koepka.
Johnson misses a birdie chance again
The putts aren't going in for Dustin Johnson, though, another one within a few inches but, crucially, not in.
Still very much Koepka's to lose.
Stewards clearing the fans
Out come the waving arms, directing the spectators hither and thither to create space for Koepka's shot.
The one positive to being that far off line is that the grass has been flattened by the thumping of the fans' feet through the day, and thus the lie is decent. Not perfect, but decent.
It'll be blind and into the wind, though.
We might have a proper battle on our hands.
Hooked left on the par-five 13th. Koepka is very, very wayward.
Down to four shots...
Back-to-back bogeys for Brooks Koepka, and this tournament is still alive. Just.
Johnson does save par
That's a solid five on the 13th, which on most days would be a hole to target, but is playing tough today, particularly with the wind intensifying.
Over to Koepka at 12...
Johnson should save par
A very good putt from distance from Dustin Johnson, negotiating the change of grass length and pacing it superbly.
He should tap in for his par, while Koepka's wedge on leaves him slightly more to do.
Koepka chases up the right
For once, Brooks Koepka doesn't go for it from the rough, content to scuttle one along the right-hand side of the fairway and reset the hole.
Double bogey for Jazz Janewattananond
Down to -3 drops the youngster after falling foul of the thick stuff.
Third place very much up for grabs.
Johnson's struggling, too
This wind is really troubling the players, ill-timed gusts leaving shots consistently short of the green, a fate befalling Dustin Johnson on 13.
Koepka in the rough again...but his power is helping
A monstrous drive that leaks out to the right and beds down in the tangled rough from Koepka, but he's close enough that even a punch out should get up to the putting surface.
Every hole a battle
Bethpage Black's tough back nine is testing the field, who are having to strain every golfing sinew in the body, scramble and salvage what they can.
The moment you go off line, be it into the rough or into a bunker, and that's curtains for your hope of an easy hole, and with the wind gusting it is only going to get harder and harder.
But the bogey putt goes in
That needed to go in, really, because it was just starting to spiral.
Sound of character and of stroke, right in the centre of the cup. A shot gone, but it certainly could have been worse.
Par putt scoots beyond the hole
Work to do for bogey after Koepka thumps his putt over the hill and into the woods. Well, not quite, but you get the picture.
The wind is gusting
A gust of wind catches Brooks Koepka's ball and it is an anguished cry from our leader as his ball flops shy of the green.
It just hasn't happened for the field
Pretty much every single one of the chasing pack has had a moment or two today, be it a long putt, superb approach or delightful chip, but Dustin Johnson aside none are above level par for the day and haven't been able to string enough moments together to piece together a low round.
Still, the leader may be faltering...
He'll have to play out...
Brooks Koepka has found a fairway bunker on the 11th, and his lie is such that he'll have to knock one out and then look green-wards with his third.
Hole-in-one on 17 for Lucas Bjerregaard!
Dead at it, on the hop, in it goes!
And would you believe it, playing partner Lucas Glover flops in from the bunker at the back. No putters required!
Koepka extends his lead
He seals the deal from close range, a birdie to start as he rounds the bend into the home straight.
A respectful tip of the cap, a relaxed stride from the putting surface, and on to the next.
Shot gone for Johnson
Down to -7, the lead is back to five shots, and it might soon be six...
What a shot!
That's outstanding! The cleanest of connections, the softest of landings, Brooks Koepka's approach at the 10th introduces itself to the hole, takes it out for dinner and snuggles up next to it.
160 yards, into the wind, with a gap wedge. Obscene ball striking.
And that isn't the worse, but he can't stop it and it rolls a distance past, twelve feet, in fact.
It is in the sand, but sitting up relatively nicely for Johnson.
Not much green to play with...
Trouble for Dustin Johnson
He's having to push for strokes, and the luck has run out, rather, for the lead chaser.
Into the rough from the tee, either the rough or the bunker with his second. Work to do.
And he starts the back nine perfectly
Firmly in the swing of things now, an effortless 320 yards down the middle of the fairway with the driver.
Koepka keeps going
That's a magnificent putt.
Playing safe and avoiding trouble, Brooks Koepka is on the fringe and has plenty of green to cover wih his putt, but judges it excellently again, the last couple of rolls on the ball briefly threatening the cup but he'll be content with a nudged in par.
In control. At the moment...
An exasperated groan from Dustin Johnson as his putt rolls to within an inch but doesn't quite come back enough.
Par it is.
A steady beat
Jazz Janewattananond is compiling a very solid round, out in 35 with another sound par at the 9th, one bogey, one birdie for the Thai so far, and in a tie for third.
Another superb wedge on to the green from Dustin Johnson
This is very simple golf from Dustin Johnson, a thump down the fairway, a controlled wedge, and a putt for birdie.
Opportunity knocks again at 10
Out in 32, Dustin Johnson is putting the pressure on Brooks Koepka
Koepka pars the 8th
Another well-judged long putt, another simple par putt.
In the putt goes, and Dustin Johnson goes to -8.
Might he live to regret that late miss yesterday?
Quite the shot from Dustin Johnson, right at the flag on the 9th from the centre of the fairway, a soft bounce on the green holding it beautifully at very close range.
A chance to keep the pressure on. Koepka has found the green on the par three 8th.
Low PGA Club Professional
A very solid effort from Rob Labritz, who at +10 finishes as the best of the invitee club professionals from around America, comfortably clear of the two others who made the cut.
Our Low PGA Club Professional this year is Rob Labritz, PGA Director of Golf at GlenArbor Golf Club in Bedford Hills, N.Y. Labritz was also the Low PGA Club Professional at Whistling Straits in 2015. #PGAChamp— PGA of America (@PGA) May 19, 2019
See you on the 18th green later today, Rob! pic.twitter.com/6JEcmR39UK
Another good'un from Koepka
All of 45 feet and all uphill, but the pace is once again perfect, and the line isn't bad either. Within two feet and another tap-in par, it seems.
Chugging along rather well.
A 69 to finish another disappointing major weekend for Rory McIlroy, out of contention throughout and, yet, frustratingly, seemingly not far away.
72, 71, 69, 69 his four scores.
And in it goes
A par at the 8th for Johnson, alone in second place.
Work to do for Dustin Johnson
A decent stab at a chip from the thick stuff but a far-from-simple par putt needs holing...
Spieth turns with a birdie
The putter is hot for Jordan Spieth.
A stride to the hole, a pump of the fist and to the back nine he goes birdie-fuelled.
Wood you believe it?
And then Brooks Koepka goes barking mad, too, branching out with another wayward drive and leafing himself vulnerable, fortunate that the ricochet squirts on to the fairway, which he doesn't appear to have twigged, a nervous exchange of words with his caddy as the club goes back in the bag.
What has happened there?
Dustin Johnson has started his tee shot on to the tough 8th hole to far right and is dicing with danger, with a pond at the front and tree limbs hanging across it.
It hits one of these and obviously bounces up, for it takes an age for the ball to finally drop down like apples in the autumn, a dull thud as it buries itself in the rough, though, for Johnson's sake, fortunately not in the water. It'll be a tough chip out of there, of course, but that could have been worse.
In goes the par putt...
And the lead stays at five shots.
Solid putt from Koepka
A nudge down the hill, weight perfect, and a tap-in to come for par.
Brooks Koepka and Harold Varner III are both relatively quick players, and Koepka particularly has spoken of his frustration with the elongated preparations other top players perform before striking the ball.
No doubt, therefore, that the leader will be frustrated by the group ahead of him, with the final group on the course constantly having to wait to play.
When they finally play their approaches at the 6th, both find the heart of the green.
Another boomer into the rough
You can't accuse Brooks Koepka of conservatism, certainly from the tee.
He only knows one way to play and is going hell-for-leather with the driver at every opportunity, fidning the rough with regularity but backing his power to extradite himself from such scrapes.
A tough shot in from the right of the 6th, but by no means out of the hole.
Varner back down to -1
Another bogey. Another dropped shot.
The round is getting away from Harold Varner.
Koepka rattles in the par putt.
Brooks Koepka keeping it going
Trouble off the tee, finding the rough, but two strong bits of scrambling work from Brooks Koepka at the 5th and that should be enough to save par.
Birdie two for DJ!
Straight as an arrow into the hole, and that's two birdies in three holes for Dustin Johnson.
Harold Varner III is hooking more than a prime Ricky Ponting at the WACA, a great cry of "fore" as he once again finds the crowd to the left of the fairway.
Varner is vanishing
The bogey putt is never there for Harold Varner III, and he's drifting out of contention with a double.
Back to level par for the day, back ahead by six shots.
No eagle for Brooks Koepka
The greens have just slowed a touch, the breeze drying the surface, and Koepka doesn't quite give this enough oomph.
Another good par save for Matt Wallace
This is impressive stuff from Matt Wallace.
He has the most awkward of lies, having to stand in the sand and chip from above his feet, the ball about thigh high on the bank of the bunker.
Controlling the speed by landing in the rough, he chips to within five feet and strokes in the par.
Jordan Spieth is doing Jordan Spieth things
Seven straight pars, at least three of those salvaged with lengthy par saves that thump against the back of the cup.
Still at -3 with another major top ten in sight.
Varner will have to drop
Needle-in-the-haystack stuff, and a lost ball for Harold Varner III.
Now the matter of a drop right in the middle of the thick rough that caused the issue. This could be a hefty one.
Johnson pars the 5th
No dice for Dustin Johnson's birdie putt on the hole ahead of the final group, but he'll tap in for par to keep the pressure somewhat on.
Koepka going from strength-to-strength
A gem from Brooks Koepka, an eight iron from 208 yards and dropping down pin high.
Varner falling to pieces
After such a strong start, it is all going rather wrong for Harold Varner, who is wading through a positively Amazonian thicket of trees after skewing his second from the rough at the 4th in completely the wrong direction.
Just three minutes to find it, of course, and I wouldn't hold out hope...
Wallace won't waver
That's some putt for par, Matt Wallace.
The Englishman keeps his round ticking away with a rattler from distance on the 5th to stay tied for third with Patrick Cantlay.
A new nearest challenger
Varner falls, Johnson rises.
Dustin Johnson finds a birdie on the par-five 4th via a charming chip-and-run, and he's into the red for the day and on to -6, five back from Koepka.
And he's just walloped a drive down the 5th fairway.
But Koepka makes no mistake
The leader takes his time from similar range and holds his nerve.
He stays at -11.
Double bogey for Harold Varner III
Varner is too swift to his bogey putt, not even bothering to size it up before striking, and misses as a result.
Back down to -4.
Koepka misses again similarly
Another putt that doesn't move as much as Koepka is hoping, and that'll roll a yard and a half or so past.
But Harold Varner III hasn't got all of his chip and missed the resulting par putt. Varner's will be a bogey at best.
Cantlay on the charge
Patrick Cantlay has moved himself to -5 with three early birdies, a bogey blemishing his card a little but still a fast start for the American.
A couple of lovely approach shots already, the latest on the 5th particularly so.
That's not it.
Harold Varner III makes his first big error, pulling his tee shot wide of the bunker to the left of the 3rd green, leaving himself a very tricky up-and-down.
No such worries for Koepka - a high hanging draw and a birdie putt to come.
A par for Koepka
16 feet for Brooks Koepka, a hint of movement left-wards, but it is only a hint, and Koepka plays for too much.
Harold Varner III does well to pry the ball from a deep bit of a rough just short of the green to get down in two and save his par.
Better from Brooks
Sent up to the heavens and down it plunges, a bit of a nerve-settler, not looking for anything particularly magical but leaving himself a make-able birdie putt.
Varner is further down the fairway than first appeared, but cuts beneath his ball too much, spinning it back on to the fringe.
Matsuyama -4, Johnson to -5
Hideki Matsuyama has made a birdie at the 2nd and is close to another at 3, his putt trickling, trickling within an inch of a hole but somehow not being drawn into it, sliding a distance past. And he misses the par putt back the other way to drop down to -4.
Dustin Johnson makes his birdie putt.
2nd hole for the final group
An iron for Harold Varner III from the tee. Straight and short. Maybe an eight or nine iron from there on a hole playing comfortably under 400 yards today.
Koepka also opts for the control of the iron, and is a touch more adventurous, to his detriment, perhaps, in the first cut on the left.
Indeed it is
Confidently stroked home by Harold Varner III, and the gap has narrowed considerably.
The worst possible start for Brooks Koepka, but he'll reset with the shortest par-four on the course.
Bogey for Koepka!
To the right the putt goes, to the right it stays.
Still the six shots ahead, but it might soon be five...
Koepka chips to the right
That isn't a great effort, either.
He'll have a par putt but he's pushed that one out of the rough to the right.
Varner shows him how it is done
Two pieces of golfing perfection from Harold Varner III, out-driving Koepka and then sliding the ball up the green to leave himself three feet or thereabouts for a birdie at the 1st.
Just 86 yards for Brooks Koepka to negotiate from the rough...
And he's clothed it! A heavy contact, stalling in the rough, and he's short of the green, in the rough again.
As does his playing partner
And here's Harold Varner, third of his name, with the dubious honour of playing with the runaway leader.
He's much smaller than Koepka but really packs a punch, and powers this down the fairway.
The leader begins
"On the tee, from West Palm Beach, Florida, the 2018 PGA Champion, Brooks Koepka!"
And Koepka is away with a typically booming drive, in the rough just to the left of the fairway.
Poor Jazz Janewattananond.
He'd have so wanted a solid par to get himself going, but he's fluffed his lines with the chip and will have to roll a putt down from distance to have a hope.
And it doesn't get there. He'll lose a stroke.
List follows along
And it is a very similar shot from Luke List, the other side of the flag tucked in the back left corner, and with a similarly treacherous knock down to it to come for birdie.
A bit of a nervy one for young Jazz Janewattananond, out of the rough so unable to get the requisite purchase to hold his ball on the green and with a tricky little nibbler from the very edge of the fringe out the back.
Wallace to -5
A strong start from Matt Wallace, close to a birdie at the 1st but making no mistake at the 2nd, and into the second-placed group.
The penultimate group tee off
Luke List and Jazz Janewattananond both find the rough, on either side of the fairway but with opportunities to find the flag.
Ahead of them on the 1st, Matsuyama has to settle for par.
Good touch for a big man.
Dustin Johnson chips to within two inches. Deft, but it'll only be par.
Johnson short, Matsuyama close
Dustin Johnson doesn't quite get a full connection on his clip out of the rough, and it settles on the thicker fringe. A lengthy birdie chance to come, which he may have to chip.
Matsuyama has a much simpler try to come.
Nothing but net!
It has been a tough day so far for Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, but that'll bring a smile to his face, chipping in for birdie on the 9th.
Johnson and Matsuyama begin
Two of the game's best and brightest on the tee. Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson both have the big tournament chops that might be required should Koepka have a disaster.
Johnson through the fairway in the rough right-wards, Matsuyama in position A1, plugging on the fairway dead centre.
That flick off the pin was actually detrimental to Spieth's shot, disrupting the spin and thus not holding as close.
It is still a relatively short putt, but he pushes it out to the right and it doesn't quite come back enough. It'll be a par.
Delightful stuff from Jordan Spieth
A perfect drive and virtually the perfect approach, taking the slightest of touches off the flag as it scuttles beyond it.
Not looking good for the chasers
Just under half-an-hour until Brooks Koepka tees his ball up on the 1st.
And those behind him hoping for low scores might find the going tough - as far as I can work out, only Brandt Snedeker is any better than -1 among those nearing or at the end of their rounds.
It'll take a collapse, you feel.
Solid start for Spieth
A par to begin for Jordan Spieth. Solid enough.
Erik van Rooyen follows suit. To the 2nd they go.
Conga conga con-ga!
We're going on an adventure!
Danny Willett has birdied 2 to get into the red, but his tee shot on the 3rd has ended up somewhere near Manhattan.
Okay, it's not quite that bad, but there is a thickly forested area some 50 yards away from the green that he'll have to venture into. Curiously unpredictable, golf.
Poor putt, plunge to parity.
A bogey to open the round for Rickie Fowler who falls to level par for the tournament. A three-putt, and a waste of a lovely approach.
Fowler misses birdie putt
Throughout the weekend, commentators have opined that players struggle more with putts that don't move much, playing for breaks that aren't there, and there are indicators that that may be the case today, with some of the game's best and brightest starting putts on the wrong line and watching them not move, sliding past the hole.
Rickie Fowler is the latest, squandering a birdie chance on the 1st and leaving himself a little bit to do for par.
Jordan Spieth's right hook
Deontay Wilder last night, Jordan Spieth today.
A violent hook right from Spieth on 1, but he started it out to the right and it'll settle in the shorter rough to the left.
Erik van Rooyen is his partner, and the South African will also play from the longer stuff.
The anatomy of a golf swing
Fowler on the first
A great flash of orange fills the screen, which means it is time for Rickie Fowler to tee off, sporting the collegiate colours of the Oklahoma State Cowboys as is his wont on major Sundays.
A meaty blow to kick things off for Fowler. I fancy a low one from him today...
McIlroy fails to convert
Pulls the putt to the left a smidge, and a smidge is all that is required. Chance gone.
More strife for Justin Rose
Out the back at 4, Rose has a choice between a chip and a putt, choosing the former but failing to get it up the hill.
Fine, he says, I'll putt this one from similar distance, but perhaps wary of repeating the dose he pushes it through and beyond the flag a considerable distance.
A long putt for par...not quite. A bogey six. Down to +2.
Rory McIlroy on the par-three 8th...
High, holding in the breeze, at the flag, a pluggy bounce, a little roll, and that's a beaut. Birdie opportunity.
The wind begins to blow
The rumblings of a stronger wind are coming through the microphones on the cameras as they watch Phil Mickelson and his phalanx of autograph-hunters and selfie-seekers.
Could the weather yet have a role to play?
That's the Ancer!
Mexico's Abraham Ancer is one of the clutch hovering around level par, and he moves to the mark of parity with a lovely chip in from the bunker on the 6th, taking plenty of sand and using the slope down to the hole to his advantage.
Bogey again for Rose
The wind causes issues for Justin Rose on the 3rd, leaving his tee shot short of the green, at least a club short.
He can only chip to about six-feet or so, and the par putt clips the edge and stays up.
Bogey, birdie, bogey.
Rose bounces back
It was to be bogey at 1 for Justin Rose, but he's made the short par-four 2nd count to rebound with a birdie.
Brooks is here...
Into his plum parking spot pulls Brooks Koepka, entourage in tow as he emerges from his SUV. Back to the clolour block polo, black, blue and white the colours today, and the same curiously-styled Nike cap.
He looks very, very confident, unsurprisingly.
Hacking and thwacking - a typical Phil Mickelson round.
Casey and Mickelson finish up
The commentators are currently discussing Phil Mickelson's private jet, in which he'll ferry a couple of otheres back with him to Arizona come day's end.
Paul McGinley has just suggested he paid somewhere near $700,00 to install satellite television in it. Must be a big'un.
Mickelson finishes with a bogey and at +12, but he's enjoyed every minute, as has playing partner Paul Casey, who may well be on that plane. Casey's round is a 69 to finish at +5 for the tournament.
A miss from a Rose
Justin Rose has twice struck trees on the first, fortunate to have a shot in to the green after his first ends up in the rough but firing into a trunk again to send the ball spooning out to the right.
It'll be a real battle to find even a bogey from there.
Birdie for Rory McIlroy
The putts just aren't dropping for Tony Finau and Rory McIlroy, but the latter's is an eagle opportunity and thus it is the simplest of birdies to get his scoring underway for the day at the par-five 4th.
+1 for the Northern Irishman, Finau stays at +2.
Three birdies in five holes and Aaron Wise is under par at -1.
Matt Kuchar soon joins him with his third birdie at 6. They are the two active leaders.
There's that basher again.
A short, straight putt missed by Phil Mickelson, dropping the leftie to +10. Still smiling, though.
The rhythm section
We are currently being treated to an interview with Jazz Janewatananond's stand-in caddy, who is very, very New York.
Jack Miller is his name, and he's delighting in explaining his day job, which is at a supermarket. Glorious television.
Miller admits that communication hasn't been easy, and he completely butchers the Thai golfer's name when prompted by the interviewer. Still, whatever has been said has worked.
That's a shot the club basher probably isn't playing.
Danced to within a yard, before some late spin takes it further afield. A short par putt to come.
Phil Mickelson off line...again!
Phil Mickelson is doing a very passable impression of your average club basher, anywhere between five and a hundred yards off the fairway on seemingly every hole, most recently taking a provisional after a horrific slice and putting that even further left.
Such is the rough at Bethpage that the elbow problem troubling him earlier is getting worse and worse. He eventually scythes through it, grimacing, and scoots the ball up the fairway.
McIlroy misses another, no dice for Day, Finau fails
Three missed putts for the trio we are tracking, McIlroy's the longest from the fringe at 2. Starts right, stays right.
Day didn't get his putt's line right at all, but the weight was there and he'll tap in for a par to start.
Finau's is comfortably the worst. He never looks truly confident on the green, and he sends this one about a yard past after a misread from seven feet.
Shots to be made at the 1st
The 1st looks just about the perfect hole to kick-start a low round, particularly for those in the field long off the tee. It is playing shorter than the listed 430 yards and the trouble is minimal once you power it past the dogleg.
Jason Day is the latest to knock the most languid of wedges to within ten feet.
If you joined me on Friday you'd have seen my delight at Justin Rose's flowery pink shirt, and the affable Englishman is at it again, this time a ditsy-print white polo, nicely contrasting a navy blue cap and trousers, white spikes completing the look.
And a lovely moment for a young gentleman who gets the honour of placing Rose's nameplate at his chosen warm-up station.
Both McIlroy and Finau safely find the first green with little clips out of the rough, but neither can find the cup. Par, par.
Place your bets...
Bane of the bookies and bettors alike, Brooks Koepka has dismantled the rest of the field to such an extent that plenty of the bookmakers are now directing punters towards their second-place stakes, with Dustin Johnson seemingly the favourite to be best of the rest from what I've seen.
It really has been outstanding golf from Koepka. The British broadcaster are currently demonstrating his excellence from the rough, his ability to churn the hands through the resistance and both keep the ball straight and control his distance.
He's been in a different sphere all weekend.
And they're away
A driver for R-Mac, a lively blue polo and hat combo, white trousers, always a bold move on a golf course, I've found. A great high draw and down the right side it skips, hopping across the fairway as it bends and into the rough on the right.
This green might be driveable today with wind and length in the players' favour. Finau fancies a bash at it, taking a driver of his own, carrying 315 yards and skipping off the fairway to the left. With a fade that might have made it, you know.
On the tee...
Now this is a fun group: Tony Finau and Rory McIlroy. There's some power there.
Out to the first they stride.
This may be skewed by the nature of television coverage but the course seems to be playing really nicely.
The greens look particularly receptive, soft enough to hang and hold high irons and firm enough to take the flatter punches across the dancefloor.
Whisper it quietly, but there are low scores to be had...
Bronson Burgoon sounds like a villain from a superhero film, but the American is very much a golfer and very much flying up the leaderboard.
It has been an up and down weekend for Burgoon, signing for scores of 73, 66 and 74 so far, and it looks like another good day to finish, three-under through 5.
A ramble and a scramble
There's a wide smile on Phil Mickelson's face as he exchanges fist bumps and high fives with the spectators over towards his ball, which has been removed from its vehicular home. It's a fair distance from the intended line, but he's to it eventually and with a nice sight line of the putting surface.
And ever the arch-scrambler, he finds the green with a delightful approach.
Mind the windscreen!
Oh dear. That's an atrocious tee shot.
It's Mickelson again, embedding his drive in the car park to the left of the par-four 12th, a great crash as it strikes what appears to be a buggy.
+9 and falling fast for Phil.
Casey, Mickelson both drop shots
Bogeys for Phil Mickelson and Paul Casey at the 11th, both rather wayward from the tee and fighting an uphill battle from there.
Casey managed to thump the ball from off the fairway up to a bunker just short of the green, fortunate to strike the flag from the sand and leave himself a rather more simple chance for a four than it looked like being, but it was not to be.
Mickelson appeared to do some damage to his elbow as he scrambled in typically fine fashion, hacking through some thick stuff to leave a mid-range par putt, that wouldn't fall. He looks alright now, though.
Frustration for Graeme McDowell on 8, a lovely tee shot to the front of the green pin position leaving a very makeable birdie putt, but wasted, leaving it right, playing for a break that never came.
He won't be left in the Dust
Spieth strides out
A grey zip-neck, grey cap and sunglasses look for Jordan Spieth, towel and water bottle in hand as he strides through the practice area.
Perhaps the field's great hope of reeling in Koepka yesterday, the special round required to surge into proper contention never materialised, dropping a couple of shots in his 72.
Another lovely day at Bethpage, a touch cooler than yesterday, apparently, a stiff breeze but nothing to truly throw a spanner in the works.
Rather pleasant golfing weather. Rory McIlory has wandered out for some chipping practice.
A new king of the jungle?
With a 7-shot lead, Brooks Koepka could become the second player to win back-to-back PGA Championship.— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 19, 2019
The only player to do this is Tiger Woods. pic.twitter.com/xCD88AVAdC
Great minds and all that...
Rocketing away, though, is Graeme McDowell, three shots gained in his first six holes to move to +2.
Leader Brooks Koepka admitted yesterday he admired and drew from McDowell's mentality, praising the way he "grinds it out."
There are a smattering of groups all ready out and about on Long Island, up early and workign their way round the course. Not a great deal of low scoring thus far, perhaps suggesting the course is still playing tough.
Paul Casey has three birdies in his first eight holes to move to +4, while spare a thought for American club pro Marty Jertson, who, after commendably surviving the cut, has dropped seven shots so far and is a smooth +17 for the tournament after a 79 yesterday.
If @BKoepka wins today, he’ll be the first player to be a current 2-time defending champion in two of the four Majors at the same time (2018 & '19 PGA, 2017 & '18 U.S. Open).#PGAChamppic.twitter.com/umZlN1fhH7— PGA Championship (@PGAChampionship) May 19, 2019
Here comes the money...
Just the $1,980,000 on offer for the winner today. Good work if you can get it.
Here are a few of the other standout tee times today, all BST:
16.55 - Rory McIlroy (+2), Tony Finau (+2)
17.45 - Justin Rose (E), Sam Burns (+1)
17.55 - Tommy Fleetwood (E), Chez Reavie (E)
18.45 - Jordan Spieth (-3), Erik van Rooyen (-2)
18.55 - Patrick Cantlay (-3), Adam Scott (-3)
19.05 - Matt Wallace (-4), Xander Schauffele (-3)
19.15 - Dustin Johnson (-5), Hideki Matsuyama (-4)
19.25 - Jazz Janewattananond (-5), Luke List (-5)
19.35 - Brooks Koepka (-12), Harold Varner III (-5)
Leading the European charge: Matt Wallace
Behind them come Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and leading Brit Matt Wallace, who has put together three very solid rounds to put himself right in the mix for a first major top-ten finish.
Wallace, born in Hillingdon in West London, had only previously made the cut once at a major championship. He's out with Xander Schauffele at 19.05 British Summer Time.
Distant as they are, the quartet behind Koepka certainly won't be giving up hope. They are an intriguing bunch, with Dustin Johnson the most familiar name and someone tipped to do well on a course to his suiting.
Also at -5 are Thailand's gloriously named Jazz Janewattananod, long-time PGA Tour battler Luke List and pocket-sized power-hitter Harold Varner III.
Today could be something of an anti-climax.
Brooks Koepka leads by seven shots form a chasing pack that have looked increasingly distant as the weekend has continued.
It is rare in golf to see someone so utterly dominant, but such has been the powerful American's consistency this weekend that no-one has been able to keep pace, potential challengers approaching somewhere near striking distance before falling away.
Koepka has been peerless on the greens and fairways of Bethpage's famously tough Black Course, and he is just eighteen holes from a wire-to-wire win, and his seven shot leading margin seems insurmountable.
It will take something extraordinary for the chasing pack to pry a second consecutive USPGA trophy from Koepka's grasp, but this is a sport with a habit of throwing up extraordinary stories. There are still plenty of shots to be played...