There’s a guy battling leg pain and a 50-year-old man in Sunday’s final pairing at the PGA Championship.
Brooks Koepka, coming off right knee surgery in March, hopes he can fight through pain and fatigue long enough to win a fifth major title and deny Phil Mickelson’s attempt at a historic victory.
Koepka fired a two-under par 70 to stand on six-under 210 after Saturday’s third round at windy Kiawah Island, but a closing bogey cost him a share of the lead with Mickelson, who could become golf’s oldest major winner.
“If I strike it anything like I did the last three days, I’ll have a chance,” Koepka said.
The leader of the under-50 flight is happy his knee hasn’t shown any signs of weakness as it had before he arrived at the difficult Ocean Course.
“I’ve not had that once this week. Very pleased,” Koepka said Saturday. “I think the strength has increased.
“I don’t know if it was just a little tired, but I’ve kind of toned back the workouts a little bit, especially this week, just because I know what I’ve got to do.”
The 13th-ranked American knew he would get a workout over the sand dunes and unlevel areas of the coastal course, the longest layout in major history at 7,876 yards,
“You’re walking on sand a little bit, playing a lot of golf,” he said. “Just toned it back a hair but made sure I’m still doing the important things in the rehab.”
Koepka, the 2018 and 2019 PGA champion, seeks his third title in four years.
Not since Tom Watson won the 1980, 1982 and 1983 British Opens has a player won the same major three times in four years.
Koepka, who still makes somewhat of an awkward stance while lining up putts due to knee issues, says the event feels like any other major, even though his challenge is unusual.
“It just feels good, feels normal. It’s what you practice for. I’m right where I want to be, and we’ll see how tomorrow goes,” he said.
“Just be within three of the lead going into the back nine and you’ve got a chance.”
Koepka was upset at his putting, saying the course seemed faster than the practice putting area.
“That was the worst putting performance I’ve ever had,” he said. “Can’t get much worse. I thought 70 was about the highest I could have shot today. I left a lot out there.
“From inside 10 feet, I’m usually banging it in the back of the cup.”
Koepka is playing in the final pairing as well, so he can keep an eye on that 50-year-old guy.
“At least I can see what Phil is doing and then I don’t have to turn back and look and see what he’s up to,” Koepka said. “And everybody will be in front of me so I know what I’ve got to do.”