Koepka Leads Conners, Hovland by One Stroke in 105th PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka took control in the final holes, but he hasn’t forgotten about how he lost a two-stroke lead in the final round of the Masters last month.

Koepka, a four-time major champion, made three birdies on the way home to cap a second straight 4-under-par 66 in rainy, windy weather and leads Corey Conners of Canada and Viktor Hovland of Norway by one stroke heading to the final round of the 105th PGA Championship on the East Course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

“I actually used some of the things I learned at the Masters when I got behind today, and I’m sure I will do that again tomorrow,” said Koepka, who tied for second behind top-ranked Jon Rahm in the Masters. “I just want to stay patient and hit good shots, play solid golf and the birdies will come, the way they did today.

“This course is tough enough, but it was even more difficult today with the changing weather conditions. It was even hot for a while, but then it rained pretty hard, got cold, and then it was really windy for a while. Despite that, I was able to play well, and four-under-par is a pretty good score under the conditions.

“What happened at Augusta, I won’t do it again tomorrow or for the rest of my career. … I’ll never have that mindset or that won’t ever be the reason that I don’t win.”

Koepka, who won the PGA in 2018 and 2019 plus the U.S. Open in 2017 and 2018, sank a 14-foot birdie putt on No. 12, an 18-footer for another birdie on the next hole, and holed a 47-foot birdie bomb at No. 17 en route to recording a 54-hole score of six-under-par 204.

Conners led for much of the day before getting stuck in a bunker and taking a double-bogey 6 on the 16th hole in a 70, while Hovland had three birdies in the middle of his round but made a bogey on the last hole to fall out of a tie with Koepka, and also finished at 70.

“It was a fun round out there and I actually played pretty well, other than that one shot,” said Conners, who is trying join Mike Weir (2003 Masters) as the only men’s golfer from Canada to win a major title. “Actually, it was pretty funny because my golf ball got stuck between the grass and the sand, and no one could find it for a while.

“We all had a good laugh about it, really. It was an unfortunate situation and a poor shot, but it  didn’t really affect the last few holes. I just tried to give myself a couple more looks on 17 and 18.

“Despite the double-bogey, I played well and want to keep doing tomorrow what I did the last few days.”

Said Hovland, who has won three times on the PGA Tour in recent years: “I just played a lot of real solid golf without much stress. I just have to slow down sometimes, stay under control and  free myself up. I hit a lot of fairways and greens, gave myself chances for birdies, but unfortunately not enough of them went in.

“I’m just going to keep playing that way and hope tomorrow is one of those days where everything goes right.”

First-round leader Bryson DeChambeau of Clovis, the 2020 U.S. Open champion, made two late birdies in a 70 and is three-shots down in solo fourth, while second-seeded Scottie Scheffler, the 2022 Masters winner, made only one bogey in a 73 and is one more down in a tie for fifth with Justin Rose of England, the 2013 U.S. Open champ, who made three birdies on the front nine in a 69.

Third-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, a four-time major champion, had three birdies on the back nine and is five behind in solo seventh, while Michael Block, Head Golf Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, also made three birdies coming home in a third straight 70 and is six strokes back in a tie for eighth with Justin Suh of San Jose and USC, who struggled to a 73.

Tommy Fleetwood of England made only one bogey in a 68 and is seven shots down in a big tie for 10th with Stephan Jaeger of Germany, who made a late birdie for a 69; Victor Perez of France, who had three birdies on the back nine in another 69; Eric Cole of Palm Springs, who had two birdies and two bogeys in a 70; Shane Lowry of Ireland, who pitched in from 13 feet for par on the last hole to salvage a 71, and Min Woo Lee of Australia, who had three birdies in another 71.

Fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA made two late birdies in a 72 and is tied for 20th, eighth-ranked Cameron Smith of Australia is tied for 27th following a late birdie in a 70, while fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of La Jolla and San Diego State made two birdies coming home and is tied for 33rd after a 71.

Top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain birdied three of the last six holes for a 72 and is in a tie for 42nd that includes 10th-ranked Jordan Spieth, who also made three birdies on the back nine in a 71, while sixth-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal stumbled to a 74 and is tied for 52nd.

Defending champion Justin Thomas made a single birdie in a 75 and is tied for 67th.                  

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