Koepka submitting all-time great performance at PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka reacts after putting on the 15th green during the third round of the PGA Championship golf tournament, Saturday, May 18, 2019, at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. (Julio Cortez/AP)

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Xander Schauffele was the Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour and has won twice already this season. This week, though, he’s sad. Brooks Koepka has ended this tournament, and it’s only Saturday. In fact, someone could have called it on Thursday.

"This is a major championship, and everyone is here to win, but there’s only one guy who’s absolutely just destroying this place. So I’m sure he’s having a blast," said Schauffele. "But for the rest of us, he’s making it awfully boring."

Koepka leads the 101st PGA Championship by seven shots going into Sunday’s finale, and the 54-hole lead margin is just one of many records he’s already set this week.

At one point Saturday the lead was up to eight before he made back-to-back bogeys in a PGA Tour event for the first time since The Players Championship (two months ago).

The 29-year-old is trying to become the first player in history to win both the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open back-to-back. Koepka holds the 18, 36, and 72-hole scoring records at the PGA Championship already and shot the course record at Bethpage Black Thursday with a 7-under 63.

He backed that up with a 65 on Friday.

Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open by 15 shots 19 years ago. This year, in a turning of the table, Woods was asked about Koepka.

"What (Koepka) did, he’s driving it 330 yards in the middle of the fairway. He’s got 9-irons when most of us are hitting 5-irons, 4-irons, and he’s putting well. That adds up to a pretty substantial lead," said Woods on Friday.

The lead was also seven after 36 holes – no one in the tournament’s history has ever lost a seven-shot lead going into the weekend – after an even-par 70 on Saturday, it was still seven.

No one has lost a seven-shot lead through three rounds, either.

Koepka said Friday was a battle, so he went to the driving range. His coach, Claude Harmon III, told Sportsnet that they were trying to get Koepka’s golf swing tighter. The game plan on the tough Bethpage Black was to not make any double bogeys.

"Bogeys are fine, and the golf course completely changed today. Par was a good score, and I think he showed today why he’s a three-time major champion," said Harmon. "He didn’t go backwards, and he still has a seven-shot lead. He left some putts out there he could have made and tomorrow is another day. We’ll stick to the game plan."

According to Koepka, there will be no letting off the gas for Sunday. He leads the tournament in strokes gained, tee-to green strokes gained, approach the green, proximity to the hole with his approaches, scrambling, and putts per green in regulation.

It’s been a clinic.

"I’m definitely not going to let up; I promise you that," he said. "I feel like when I’m over a shot, I’m very confident."

Koepka said he embraces the major championship vibe. The fans. The pressure. The atmosphere. He allowed himself a laugh and said he doesn’t get as focused during regular PGA Tour events, but the result is Koepka chasing not just a PGA Championship, but some modern history, too.

With Koepka up seven going into Sunday, his likely fourth major victory would tie him with former world No. 1’s Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, and Jason Day – combined.

"It’s just something about playing a tough golf course and understanding… maybe it’s doing a little bit more homework. I don’t do well — like last week, for example. I’m not the best at the birdie-fest. I’m better at if it’s going to play very difficult and even par, I like that," said Koepka, somewhat ironically, considering the scoring records falling this week.

"Those are my kind of golf courses, where it’s very stressful to play. I enjoy that. That’s what I live for."

We’ve reached the point at the PGA Championship when it’s no longer about comparing Koepka’s performance so far this week to other golf accomplishments but to those of other great results in sports. And like Schauffele, most of the field can sense this is just a matter of time before Koepka is lifting the Wanamaker Trophy.

Englishman Matt Wallace, eight shots back: "He’s a good golfer, isn’t he? That’s pretty much plain and simple. When you’ve got the ball under control like he does and he’s putting great and chipping and putting and everything’s perfect, that kind of happens."

South African Erik Van Rooyen, 10 shots back: "I mean, no one else is getting even close."

American Harold Varner III, seven shots back and will be in the final group with Koepka on Sunday: "He’s on it, obviously. He’s really good at golf."

They’re simple sentiments for a big-time accomplishment from Koepka’s fellow competitors.

But Koepka himself summed things up even simpler.

He was asked after his round was done if there was any doubt whatsoever in his mind that he was going to win tomorrow.

"No," was the reply.

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