Saturday At The PGA: Koepka Takes The Lead But A Sunday Shootout Awaits
Two-time PGA champ holds his second straight 54-hole major lead. Key numbers, quotes and more from a soggy Saturday. Plus, Block's run continues, Rahm rants, rules incidents and much more.
The only thing more depressing than playing golf in persistent rain may be watching others play golf in a persistent rain. But when the umbrellas came down and Oak Hill (somehow) kept draining, roars returned and the stage is set for a PGA Championship thriller.
Five former major winners are under par with a Sunday shot, headlined by Masters runner-up Brooks Koepka following his second consecutive low-round-of-the-day 66. The two-time PGA Champion leads Viktor Hovland and Corey Conners by a stroke, with Bryson DeChambeau three back.
Koepka hit 9/14 fairways and 15/18 greens and joined an elite club doing it. In the last 30 years only two players have posted the low score of the day in back-to-back major rounds: Martin Kaymer in rounds one and two at the 2014 U.S. Open and Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters in rounds 2-3.
Rory McIlroy is five strokes back and will play Sunday’s final round with PGA professional Michael Block. The Arroyo Trabuco pro posted his third-straight 70, then handled his second “walk and talk” of the week with class and was again a quote machine after his round.
The last club professional in the top 10 after 54 holes of a PGA Championship was Woodmont CC’s Bob Boyd in 1990. He started the final day at day T10 after and ended up T19 at Shoal Creek.
Before we get to the rest of Saturday’s notes, quotes and anecdotes, here are Koepka’s third round highlights:
13: Top 5’s in 35 starts for Brooks Koepka in majors
3 of 4: Majors won by Koepka when holding or sharing the 54 hole lead (2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock, 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive, 2019 PGA Championship at Bethpage)
2 in a row: Majors where Koepka has the solo 54-hole lead. (In the Tiger era the only other players to have a solo 54-hole lead in each of back-to-back majors are McIlroy (2014 Open and PGA), McIlroy (2011 Masters and U.S. Open), Tiger Woods (2000 US Open, Open, PGA and 2001 Masters).
9: Under par rounds on Saturday.
4: Players with three rounds of even-par or better this week: Viktor Hovland, Corey Conners, Justin Rose, Michael Block
14: Most birdies in the field this week, Justin Rose.
13: Second most birdies in the field, Michael Block.
7,253: Saturday yardage (7,394 max)
0: Birdies on the ninth hole Saturday
30: Birdies on the 14th hole Saturday
4: Players who have made 100 cuts in majors (Jack Nicklaus, 131, Gary Player 108, Tom Watson, 101, and this week Phil Mickelson joins them with his 100th).
$17,500,0000: Purse announced Saturday.
$3.15 million: Winner’s share.
Brooks Koepka (66, -6 overall) on the setting. “I love New York. It's always fun. Like I said, you do something really well, they are going to let you know; and if you do something pretty poor, they are going to let you know, and I just love that. I love when the fans are on you, cheering for you, or you know, giving you crap if you screw up.”
Koepka on his final round approach after letting the Masters get away. “Learning what I learned at Augusta kind of helped today. Like I said, I won't do it again the rest of my career.”
Koepka on his game in Saturday’s conditions. “I like when it’s difficult.”
Bryson DeChambeau (70, -3 overall) on Saturday’s poor first tee reception. “Look, it's New York, and I expect it here, I appreciate the fans, them doing that to me. It's like, okay, cool, no problem. I've got no problem, either way. If we got applause, that's fantastic and if not, you know what, whatever, it is what it is. It still was fun today.”
DeChambeau on the state of his relationship with former rival Koepka. “I think we have a common goal, growth of the game. We have franchises to focus on now and also good golf to play.” 🤣
Rory McIlroy (69, -1 overall). “In these conditions and on this golf course, the non-physical parts of the game are way more important this week than the physical parts of the game, and I think I've done those well, and that's the reason that I'm in a decent position.”
McIlroy on his driving approach: “I was just aiming it down one side of the hole and hitting driver and sort of just accepting that it probably will go in the rough, and if it I do hit it in the rough, I'll -- it's funny, I was a little more accepting of the ball going in the rough today, and I actually hit more fairways because of it.”
Justin Rose (69, -2 overall) on playing with Michael Block: “I felt like he was rooting for me and I was rooting for him, and the crowd was certainly rooting for him. He's having fun with them and they're having fun with him. It was a really great energy out there to play with today, and he plays in a sort of a carefree way, just his mannerisms and routine and the way he kind of one look, hit, especially with his putter. He looks very, very strong with that club.”
Phil Mickelson (75, +10 overall) on Saturday’s conditions. “I actually think it's easier to putt. It's easier to putt in the rain because they are smoother. You don't have spike marks. They don't get quite as away from you, and they were more receptive, I thought, the greens.”
Mickelson on his 100th major championship cut made in 119 starts. “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; playing in these tournaments is something I'm very appreciative of.”
Padraig Harrington (43-32-75, +8 overall ) on shooting +8 on the front and -2 on his Saturday back nine. “Once you can't win the tournament, it's all about just -- every shot is a practice, training. There's no substitute for hitting a shot with a card in your hand, and there's no point in -- you can hit as many shots as you like on the range or in practice rounds. It's not like playing real golf. That's what you see when you go on the back nine in a situation like that. It's an opportunity to get your game in shape, with 27 holes left in this tournament to get your game in shape for next week.”
Michael Block: 70-70-70-Quote Machine
If you weren’t rooting for Michael Block yet or unaware of what a breath of fresh air the Arroyo Trabuco pro has been for this championship, his quote churning ability hit peak powers Saturday.
You can watch the full session here. The highlights:
On Saturday’s third round. “I said to everybody sitting on the couches this morning, I said, if I can pull off another 70, which I think I can if I keep it in the fairways, we'd be in a good spot, and I was able to do that.”
On his biggest career check: “$75,000, 2014, Club Professional National Championship at the Dunes Club in Myrtle Beach. There was the 2001 California State Open for $4500 for a long, long time, and when I got 75K in one tournament, I was very happy.”
Getting paired with Justin Rose: “I didn't look at Rosey's face for the first three holes because I'm a big fan of Rosey and I've watched him my whole life, and I knew it could get a little too intimidating, the fact that, holy crap, I'm sitting here playing with Justin Rose, and that might get too big for me, so I literally just kind of looked down, looked at his shoes the first couple holes, and got off to a decent start and went on from there.”
On his putting. “My putting my whole life has saved me for a long, long time. There's a reason why that putter has been in my bag for over 20 years, and these dreams and the loft in that putter are absolutely perfect, and it gives me a lot of confidence. We plotted along -- I told him beginning of the day, I'm going to hit bad shots. When I hit a bad shot, we're going to play smart, get out, and then rely on my wedge game and putting to save my butt.”
Regarding the lack of roll Saturday: “It was kind of a bummer because I'm the short knocker out here, and I rely on roll, so I had no roll today, which made it ultra long. The first couple days I'm just loving my 50 yards of roll-out, right. I hit it 347 or something like that on 18 yesterday and I think I hit it 267 today. I'm hoping it dries out a lot. I'm hoping we don't get any more rain.”
How he remains humble. “Stay down to earth? Hmm. Have you met my wife? She will keep you down to earth more than anyone in the world. She's an Argentinian-Italian fireball that will tell me everything you don't want to hear, but yeah, she'll keep me down to earth like you have no idea. It's pretty easy for me. I grew up in St. Louis, I grew up in Iowa, kind of combination, Midwest roots. My parents would never let me get outside my box, right.”
On his passion for the game. “I grew up my whole life waking up to The Golf Channel at 6:30 in the morning to watch the European Tour because that's all that was on, but I was like, I'm watching the European Tour. Colin Montgomerie was the man, and I was lucky enough to get paired with him in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, which was the coolest experience ever. But I'm a PGA member that loves the game more than anything, and I'm sitting here right now absolutely blown away by this experience, but at the same time I'm blown away by how my game has actually shown up.”
On what in his makeup allowed him to do the walk and talk interviews on a major stage. “It's built-in club professional. You deal with 600 different personalities, right? You've got a lawyer telling you how to grow grass and you've got an accountant telling you that the burger wasn't cooked right. So you've got to deal with it and you know how to deal with everybody under the sun. That's a natural thing for me.”
What he plans to do Saturday night. “So I'm going to sit back as much as I can with my friends and family at the house we rented and watch the videos tonight and see all my new followers on Instagram. It's been crazy, it's been awesome.”
On what he told his caddie about the 18th hole birdie putt before he missed it. “If I make this putt on 18, this is going to be the closest thing I'm ever going to get to hitting like a Game 7 home run. I literally told my caddie even before I putted on 18 because I literally felt that man, if that putt went in on 18 for birdie to go to 1-under total, it would have been an experience unlike any experience I've ever had in my life, but the coolest thing about it was I still had that feeling and moment even without making it, which is even cooler.”
Here are Block’s third round highlights and his CBS walk-and-talk at the 14th hole.
Hole Of The Day: 485-Yard Ninth
The dogleg right features tall pines and a steep embankment down the right before playing uphill to a small green.
The gruesome numbers for the toughest hole Saturday: a 4.539 scoring average, 0 birdies, 39 pars, 33 bogeys and 4 doubles. For the week it’s playing as the second toughest hole to the sixth, with a 4.376 scoring average.
More (Non-play) Dramatics From Rahm
World No. 1 Jon Rahm continued to struggle with Oak Hill and his temper.
And moving to a diva mode that only Tom and Nicole or Prince or Sandra Bullock might appreciate, Rahm berated a cameraman off the eighth green. The operator was merely recording Rahm searching for his ball.
“Stop aiming at my face when I'm mad,” Rahm told the lensman just doing his job. “It's all you guys do.”
Technically that is true. It’s their job!
And apparently the modern camera operator is supposed to now know player moods.
“He got five feet from my face when my ball had ricocheted off a tree and possibly went out of bounds," Rahm said. "It was more about giving myself my space."
Rahm carded a 2-over 72 and is 6 over after 54 holes.
These incidents came a day after Rahm was heard calling the 11th a “Great f---ing hole.” Video of that moment has been scrubbed from Twitter by PGA of America copyright claims.