by Jim Buzzerd
So, I failed to give props to Tiger Woods last month for completing his struggle to make his comeback from a string of physical and emotional issues to win The Masters at age 43 for his 15th major championship and his first major since he won the U.S. Open in 2008. Woods chose not to play any tournaments in the four weeks between The Masters and the PGA Championship, which has moved from August to May.
The layoff Woods chose seemed to hinder his game as he looked rusty and missed the cut by one shot at five over par at Beth Page Black on Long Island. One of Woods playing partners in the first two rounds was Brooks Koepka who was defending his 2018 PGA Championship. They were two players going in different directions. Koepka opened the tournament with a seven under 63 and followed that with a 65 for a two round total of 128 and a seven shot lead. Both of those marks are tournament records. Koepka maintained that lead heading into Sunday’s final round.
The winds kicked up on Sunday and Koepka did not coast to his second PGA title in a row. He eventually won the tournament, but first he had to endure watching his six shot lead on 10 become a one shot advantage over Dustin Johnson as he walked off the 15th green following his third straight bogey. Koepka righted his ship with a par and Johnson made a bogey and Koepka held on.
Koepka has now won four of the last eight majors and may now get the recognition he deserves. I mean he’s not exactly been a secret, but there are some who think he’s not getting his due from golf fans. That is likely to change now…. finally.
I probably spent less time over four days watching this major than usual, but was on hand for most of Sunday’s round and the thing that I began to notice, and became more and more annoyed by, was the behavior of the gallery. I couldn’t figure out if CBS had more microphones on the course than usual, or if it was the boisterous ‘New York’ fanbase, but it seemed like there was always a few in the crowd trying to see if they could be the loudest.
In the later stages of the round noise from the gallery caused Johnson to back off of a shot. It wasn’t just random noise, but a pointed ill-timed comment. During Koepka’s string of bogeys fans could be heard calling him a choker or referencing choking. The gallery following Koepka in that stretch also burst into chants of, “DJ, DJ, DJ… in an obvious attempt to rattle Koepka since Johnson was two groups ahead. I’m on record having said I think some golfers are too sensitive to noise around them, I’ve also commented on the obnoxious fans having no business being on the grounds. Sunday was the latter.
Koepka didn’t complain though. “I tell you what, the hour spent from No. 11 to 14 was interesting,” Koepka said in his victory press conference. “When they started chanting, ‘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.”
Possibly the most interesting comment from Koepka was his reaction to a comment made by The Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee who questioned Koepka’s toughness during Master’s week. “Telling me I wasn’t tough,” Koepka said during a news conference. “That pissed me off. That really pissed me off.”
Chamblee is paid to give opinions, but he’s become hard to take as time passes as he continues to call out players in a way that is unsettling to players and observers like me. I would like to hear less criticism from a former player whose best finish in a major is 19th in the 1999 Masters. Oh, and Chamblee missed the cut in all four of his PGA appearances. You know, the major Koepka has won back-to-back.