MAJOR UPDATE: KOEPKA GRABS 54-HOLE LEAD AT OAK HILL

News
Written by
Mike McAllister
May 19 2023
- 8 min
Koepka PGA Saturday AP Gallery

Sixteen LIV Golf members are in this week’s PGA Championship, the second major of the 2023 golfing calendar. Here are news and notes on their progress at Oak Hill.

DAY 3

BROOKS LEADS BY 1: Thanks to his 4-under 66 – the lowest score of the day in challenging weather conditions – Brooks Koepka has the lead through three rounds of the PGA Championship. It’s the second consecutive major in which he’s held the outright lead after 54 holes.

Last month at the Masters, Koepka shot a final-round 75 to finish in a tie for second with Phil Mickelson behind winner Jon Rahm. The lessons Koepka learned at Augusta National should serve him well on Sunday at Oak Hill.

“I know what I did,” Koepka said. “I promise I won’t show up like that tomorrow.”

Koepka vowed to take a different mindset on Sunday as he chases his fifth career major and third PGA Championship title. The Smash GC captain didn’t reveal specifically what the mindset change will be but said it has already made a positive impact this week – especially in the last two rounds with back-to-back 66s, the lowest scores on both days.

“To just never think the way I thought going into the final round,” Koepka said when asked what lessons he learned. “I think that was a big thing for me, but other than that, I think … learning what I learned at Augusta kind of helped today.

“Like I said, I won't do it again the rest of my career. But that doesn't mean that you can't go play bad – you can play good, you'll play bad, but I'll never have that mindset or that won't ever be the reason.”

Koepka is one shot clear of Norway’s Victor Hovland and Canada’s Corey Conners. Fellow LIV Golf member Bryson DeChambeau is in solo fourth, three shots behind Koepka.

Koepka and DeChambeau were paired in Saturday’s third round – the fourth time this year they’ve been in the same group.

“The crowd was super-energetic,” Koepka said. “Our pairing probably had something to do that as well. It was great. I loved it.”

Koepka is seeking his second win of 2023, having won LIV Golf Orlando the week before the Masters. The victory made him the first two-time individual winner in LIV Golf's young history.

BRYSON BATTLING THE SIXTH: The most difficult hole at Oak Hill this week has been the 505-yard par-4 sixth.

Bryson DeChambeau birdied it in the first round.

The last two rounds? Double bogey. Double bogey.

DeChambeau finished Saturday's round at 3 under, three shots behind leader Brooks Koepka. Without the four dropped shots at the sixth … well, you do the math.

“The sixth hole’s killing me,” DeChambeau said. “If I can get through the sixth hole tomorrow with hopefully a birdie chance or something like that, my round should be a little bit better tomorrow.”

DeChambeau posted an even-par 70 on Saturday, with two late birdies at the 14th and 15th holes helping him stay within striking distance as he chases the second major title of his career.

It was a good rebound from his problems at the sixth, which has played more than a half-stroke over par this week.

“I really didn't play the hole bad,” the Crushers GC captain said. “I flared it a little bit and the wind picked it up and just barely went in the water today.

“Drove it beautifully on that hole and continue to drive it well tomorrow on the whole golf course, and just hit my irons a little bit better, I'm not doing that well the past couple days coming in. If I can finish off with that tonight, just feel like I'm hitting it comfortably, dead straight on my line with my irons, I'll be good tomorrow.”

CAM-RAHM BEST BALL 64: Reigning Open champion Cameron Smith shot even-par 70 in the third round to move into a tie for 27th.

The Ripper GC captain, who had a fairly drama-free two-birdie two-bogey round, played with reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm for the third consecutive day. Rahm shot 72 in a round that included four birdies and six bogeys.

Rahm mentioned to Smith that, “I think best-ball, very few groups would have beat us. But the fact that both of us played as a group the last three holes 2-under par is pretty remarkable in this weather.”

Indeed, the best-ball score for the two would’ve been 6 under with no bogeys.

PHIL TALKS 100TH CUT: A day after making his 100th cut in 119 major starts in his career, six-time major winner Phil Mickelson spoke about reaching the milestone.

“It shows that I've had a lot of great experiences in the game of golf and that I've had a lot of great years and opportunities and I guess life experiences,” the HyFlyers GC captain said after Saturday’s round. “Playing in these tournaments is something I'm very appreciative of.

“I mean, it just shows how old I am, I guess, and how many years I've been playing. But it's been really fun to participate in so many great events and play well in them.”

Mickelson was 5 over through the first two rounds at Oak Hill to make the cut on the number. It his 27th cut in 30 starts in the PGA Championship, tying the record set by Raymond Floyd and Jack Nicklaus.

Mickelson shot a 5-over 75 in the third round and will start the final round at 10 over.

PIETERS’ HOT START: With an early tee time Saturday, Thomas Pieters started fast with four birdies in his first five holes. Two of his birdie putts were just over 35 feet each.

But as the weather worsened, Pieters’ momentum slowed. He did not manage a birdie in his final 13 holes while suffering four bogeys. Still, the even-par 70 by the RangeGoats GC member was one of the better scores of the day.

DAY 2

BROOKS POSTS LOWEST ROUND: Smash GC Captain Brooks Koepka posted the lowest score of the second round, a 4-under 66 that moved him into striking distance of the lead going into the weekend at Oak Hill.

Koepka, the first two-time winner in LIV Golf after his victory in Orlando, reeled off nine straight pars to open his second round. But after reaching the back nine, he started birdie-bogey-birdie, and then finished with birdies in three of his last four holes. He rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt at 15, a 13-foot birdie putt at 17 and a 6-foot birdie putt on his closing hole.

The 66 is his lowest score at the PGA Championship since his opening round in 2020. He's now at 2 under – three shots off the lead going into Saturday's third round.

BRYSON LURKING: First-round leader Bryson DeChambeau followed up his opening 66 with a 1-over 71 that keeps him among the top contenders.

The Crushers GC captain goes into the third round tied for fourth at 3-under. two shots off the lead and tied for fourth. He rallied after a disappointing opening nine, in which he was 3 over, including a double bogey at Oak Hill's toughest hole, the par-4 sixth.

DeChambeau, seeking his second major victory, reeled off three birdies during a four-hole stretch before suffering a late bogey.

"I lipped out a putt on 12, too, and gave myself a lot of looks," DeChambeau said. "15, just pulled a little bit of a wedge and didn't hit a great wedge on 16, good recovery on 17 and then just didn't hit my wedge very well on 18. If I can clean that up tomorrow with the same driving, I'll give myself a chance to shoot a few more under par."

PHIL’S 100TH MAJOR CUT: HyFlyers GC Captain Phil Mickelson is headed for a milestone achievement, thanks to his 73-72 (5 over) total through the first two rounds of the PGA Championship.

He made his 100th career cut in a major – out of 119 starts. He'll start the weekend tied for 59th.

Of course, simply making the cut doesn’t satisfy the 52-year-old Hall of Famer. Two years ago, he made golf history by winning the PGA as the oldest player to win a major. He came into this week intent on setting a new standard, and now he has a chance to make some noise this weekend.

“I came in here very optimistic,” said Mickelson, who tied for second at last month’s Masters. “The first two days I've played terrible. I've driven it poorly. I've not felt good with the putter. I haven't chipped great. My irons have been average.

“It makes me optimistic that I still made the cut playing as poorly as I did, and I think if I can get it turned around, I can make a run.”

Mickelson hit less than 36% of his fairways through the first two rounds and paid the penalty for Oak Hill’s thick rough. But he thinks if he can straighten out the driver, he’ll have a shot at his seventh career major and third PGA title.

“The fairways are repellent, the rough is fair, and the fairway widths are fair,” Mickelson said. “You've just got to hit good shots. I'm just a fraction off. This is as bad as I've played in a long time, and yet I'm still here on the weekend, and I have a chance to turn it around.

“The course is there to have a good low number if I play really well, like you saw Patrick Cantlay and he shot 3-under and he could have been another four or five shots lower. I think if I can get -- it's not far off. If I can just get it to click, I ha`ve a chance to make a run, but I'm going to have to go work on it right now.”

FIVE STRAIGHT 3'S FOR HV3: RangeGoats GC's Harold Varner III finished off his second round in sizzling fashion, with five consecutive 3's – four birdies and a par – en route to a second-round 1-over 71.

That leaves him at 1-over through two rounds and tied for 19th as he chases his first major.

Varner entered the week fresh off a final-round 9-under 61 at LIV Golf Tulsa that tied the lowest score in LIV Golf history.

DJ SHOOTS 74: LIV Golf Tulsa winner Dustin Johnson followed up his opening 67 with a 4-over 74 that included two birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey at Oak Hill’s most difficult hole, the 503-yard par-4 sixth when he found trouble right off the tee and opted to take a penalty stroke.

Johnson was just 1 over on his round at the time, but the double at sixth followed by a bogey at the eighth hole left him sliding down the leaderboard.

Still, the 4Aces GC captain is T19 after the second round and in position to chase his third career major.

MITO BACK IN THE MIX: Mito Pereira came close to winning last year’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, having held the lead through 71 holes before a double bogey left him one shot out of the playoff.

Now he has a chance at redemption after a 1-under 69 left him 1 over through two rounds, within striking distance of the lead.

“I played solid last week on LIV, so coming into this week … my game feels really good,” said Pereira, who was 8 under on his final two rounds for Torque GC at LIV Golf Tulsa. “I just needed to drop a couple of putts, and I did today.

“So just obviously leaving behind about Southern Hills and all that. It was a year ago. Just try to play good golf.”

KIM’S SEASON-BEST ROUND: Sihwan Kim’s 2-under 68 matches his lowest score in 28 worldwide rounds this season, but it’s his best performance given how the few scores under par were recorded during Friday’s second round.

Making his PGA Championship debut and playing in just his second major, Kim’s 68 also guaranteed him a spot for the weekend. He’ll enter Saturday at 3 over for the tournament, as he moved up more than 50 spots on the leaderboard following his opening 75.

Kim has struggled this season to find his form and has provided just three counting scores among his 18 rounds as a member of Kevin Na’s Iron Heads GC. At LIV Golf’s most recent event in Tulsa, he provided two counting scores and shot a pair of 68s in his best performance of the season.

He told the Golf Channel on Friday that his play off the tee began to improve a few weeks ago. His LIV Golf Tulsa results were evidence of that.

“I kind of found it three weeks ago and have just been going deeper with it,” Kim said. “Then when you start hitting it better and your mental game sorts itself and then you get a lot more positive.”

He said fellow LIV golfers Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson provided some advice to just swing freely and not worry about results. But he described this season as a “rough three months,” especially because he didn’t want to let down his Iron Head teammates.

“One bad shot can pretty much ruin your day,” Kim said. “So that’s been a struggle. But I’m playing here and I’m playing on a great tour, so I can’t complain.”

11 MAKE CUT: Eleven of the 16 LIV Golf League members playing this week made the cut:

POSITIONPLAYERSCORE

T4

Bryson DeChambeau (Crushers GC)

-3

T6

Brooks Koepka (Smash GC)

-2

T19

Dustin Johnson (4Aces GC)

+1

T19

Mito Pereira (Torque GC)

+1

T19

Harold Varner III (RangeGoats GC)

+1

T35

Sihwan Kim (Iron Heads GC)

+3

T35

Patrick Reed (4Aces GC)

+3

T48

Cameron Smith (Ripper GC)

+4

T48

Dean Burmester (Stinger GC)

+4

T59

Thomas Pieters (RangeGoats GC)

+5

T59

Phil Mickelson (HyFlyers GC)

+5

PHOTO CREDIT: AP Photo/Abbie Parr