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Koepka atop crowded leaderboard

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ten players within

four shots of lead

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS

Brooks Koepka sometimes gets ignored on television in the list of notable scores. In the gym, he gets overlooked by Dustin Johnson.

There is no mistaking him in a major.

Koepka bullied rain-softened Bellerive on Saturday in the PGA Championship, building a five-shot lead until he had to scramble to avoid a slide on the back nine. He settled for a 4-under 66 and a two-shot lead over Adam Scott going into the final round of the final major of the year.

At stake is a chance to win three of the last six majors he played, and to join an elite list — Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen — as the only players to win the U.S. Open and PGA Championship in the same year.

“You can’t hide when you’re on the top of the leaderboard,” he said. “You can’t hide my name. So just try to get to the top of the leaderboard and work from there.”

Even so, one misstep and it might be easy to get lost at this major.

Scott had a 65, despite missing three putts from 6 feet, two of them for birdie. He is struggling through his worst season since he turned pro in 2000, and now has a chance to turn it into a year he won’t forget.

Ten players were within four shots of the lead, no name bigger — no buzz bigger — than Woods. He completed his second round Saturday morning with a 66, and then had another 66 in the afternoon that was so good it was the worst he could have shot. He made nothing but pars over the last 10 holes. On seven of the last eight holes, Woods had a birdie or eagle putt of 20 feet or closer and missed them all.

He was four shots behind in a tie for sixth, the same spot he was in going in the final day at the British Open last month, when he briefly had the lead before fading.

“I just wish I could have got myself a couple more shots closer to the lead,” Woods said. “But there aren’t a lot of guys up there in front of me.”

The list included Jon Rahm (66), Rickie Fowler (69) and Gary Woodland (71), who gave himself a chance despite falling six shots behind after a triple bogey from his footprints in the sand at No. 10.

Koepka was at 12-under 198 and even with his major pedigree — the first player with back-to-back U.S. Opens in 29 years — he will play in the final group of a major for the first time. Koepka was in the penultimate group at the U.S. Opens he won.

He plans to spend this morning working out, as he has done all week at a local gym. Koepka was there Saturday morning with Johnson and noticed everyone trying to get pictures of the world’s No. 1 player.

“They were like, ‘Did you see the No. 1 player in the world was here?’ I don’t know what to say to that,” Koepka said with a laugh.

He cares only about inside the ropes, and he thrives in the majors.

“Every shot’s so important out here,” he said.

No shots were more important than a four-hole stretch he played in 2 over that turned today into what could be a free-for-all.

An 8-foot par save on No. 13 gave him a five-shot lead, but then two errant drives led to consecutive bogeys — the first one from 100 feet away in a bunker, ending a streak of 43 holes without a bogey, the next one when his tee shot stopped rolling at the base of a tree and forced him to take a one-shot penalty to move it away. He had to get up-and-down to limited the damage to a bogey. And then he made a 10-foot par.

“Try to make the best out of a bad situation and keep rolling,” Koepka said.