Well, that was mighty entertaining. I’m talking about last week’s PGA Championship won in convincing fashion by the cold-blooded and laser-focused Brooks Koepka.
The last two rounds offered some of the most riveting golf of the year. Saturday was marked by steady rain which compounded the difficulty of Oak Hill East GC. And admit it, don’t we love to see these elite players struggle with the elements and a tough set-up? Nowadays, the typical PGA Tour stop is a ‘bomb and gouge’ fest where birdies are the currency of the realm. Making tough pars is just not good television for the suits at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl.
And Sunday, when the skies cleared, was equally entertaining as Koepka, Victor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler battled it out down the stretch. What caught my eye was when Koepka took command on the 16th hole when he made a short birdie putt after Hovland doubled, giving him a nice cushion for the remaining holes. After holing that putt, Koepka walked ever so slowly to the next tee. There was no added energy or pace to his steps. He had frequented this position before and he knew how to close.
Other thoughts and reflections:
Of course, besides the now five-time major champion, there was Golf’s Everyman, Michael Block, capturing the hearts of fans at Oak Hill and beyond. A club pro from California, Block ignited the telecast with a dramatic ace on Sunday which propelled him to a top-15 finish, giving him an exemption into next year’s PGA at Valhalla.
Block’s performance brought back memories when Blythefield CC’s Buddy Whitten was an early contender at the 1983 PGA Championship at Riveria. Whitten finished T-27th as the low PGA club pro. And Michigan’s George Bowman had a televised hole-in-one at the PGA at Valhalla in 1996.
The script couldn’t have been better for the PGA of America to celebrate its organization and membership through Block. No wonder the PGA has offered Block $50,000 to purchase the iron that struck the dramatic shot.
The PGA’s Kerry Haigh must be commended for setting up Oak Hill as a stern yet fair test. I like how accurate driving became a premium once again to avoid the thick and wet rough. Only 11 players broke par for the week. That’s a refreshing number.
Andrew Green cemented his reputation as one of the game’s elite architects with his renovation of venerable Oak Hill East, a Donald Ross gem. This work came on the heels of his stellar efforts at Inverness, Congressional, Scioto and Wannamoisett. It’s nice to know Kalamazoo CC has retained Green for its massive renovation now underway.
It’s a small item but I really liked how the PGA allows, for the third time for this Championship, the use of range finders. The other majors and the PGA Tour itself should follow this lead. Range finders save time and avoid all the fuss and bother of yardage books.
ESPN and CBS-TV both performed admirably throughout the week. I like the voices on ESPN, especially Scott Van Pelt, David Duvall, Curtis Strange and Andy North. And for post-round interviews, Marty Smith (looking like an older brother of Bryce Harper) has a strong presence with solid questions. Other than the “pay window” needed to access early round live coverage on ESPN +, there was little to complain about.
CBS with Jim Nantz and Trevor Immelmann were again on top of their games. Credit goes to Immelmann for providing insight into Koepka’s final round mindset at Oak Hill. According to the former Masters champ, Koepka wasn’t going to repeat his performance at the Masters where he played too cautiously and “trying not to lose.” And I’m also enjoying listening to Colt Knost and his often humorous and insightful comments.
But the moment and the championship belonged to Brooks Koepka after winning his third Wanamaker Trophy. A man of few words, I like how Koepka isn’t a vocal flag-bearer for the LIV Tour. He just goes about his business and lets his equipment do the talking.
He may not have the stare of Raymond Floyd in his prime, but his game is just as intimidating.
Images courtesy of the PGA of America