Koepka, DeChambeau Challenge All Comers at PGA Championship

Brooks Koepka, 2023 PGA Championship,(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka, 2023 PGA Championship,(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images) /

It seems like the good news for Viktor Hovland is that he is only one behind the lead at the PGA Championship.

The bad news for Hovland is that he is a shot behind Brooks Koepka. Koepka has already won two PGAs and two US Opens. Hovland is major-less to date.

But that’s not all Hovland has to face. Bryson DeChambeau is three back, and Justin Rose and Scottie Scheffler are four back, and all of them are past major winners.  Five back is Rory McIlroy, major-less since 2014 and hungry for another big-time trophy.

McIlroy admitted he was still struggling with his game.

“This tournament and especially in these conditions and on this golf course, the non-physical parts of the game, I think, 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,” he said to media after his round was completed.

"“I got off to a rough start.”  — Scottie Scheffler on round three of the PGA"

Justin Rose said he usually plays well in difficult conditions, and he had them today.

“There was a moment actually where the rain stopped and actually — sort of coincided with me playing a little bit better around the turn, holes 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, started to feel like I was really getting on the front foot,” Rose said post round to media.

While it looked like Scottie Scheffler was a near lock to win after yesterday’s round, he met conditions and competition that were too much for him on Saturday.  Either he’s not a good mudder, or he just had a bad golf day. It happens. Blame it on the conditions.

"“I got off to a rough start. Actually bogeyed the first two holes. Three-putted the first.I hit a good first putt and good second putt, too. Just didn’t break.” – Scottie Scheffler"

Hovland said he has been playing conservatively on the exceedingly difficult Oak Hill track.

“I don’t think this is a course where you can kind of get too crazy,” he said after finishing round three.

"“You have to, you know, play smart, play for middle of the greens and give yourself a lot of looks.”"

While Hovland and Koepka may, technically, be neck and neck, the real advantage belongs to Brooks Koepka because he’s won majors before and knows how to do it.  Koepka is also tougher than old boot leather.

Winning majors is what Brooks Koepka likes to do more than anything else in golf.

The rest of the leaderboard will have to rip the Wanamaker Trophy out of his hands.

“I think a major championship would mean a lot to anybody,” Koepka said when he concluded play. “So yeah, to win one would be fantastic.”

Corey Conners, who was leading most of the third round, is not out of it.

"“I will be playing hard tomorrow, but I’m trying to have some fun out there.” – Corey Conners"

Strangely, Conners fits the mold of the most recent winners of PGAs at Oak Hill Golf Club. There was Jason Dufner in 2013 and Shaun Micheel in 2003.

Both were primarily straight but not necessarily long hitters. They had accuracy on their side, and that’s never a bad thing in golf.

Just to refresh the memory of those who might have forgotten, in the Micheel year, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were both in the field, Woods finishing 29th and Mickelson, 23rd.

When Dufner won the PGA at Oak Hill, Tiger Woods was 40th, and Phil Mickelson was 72nd.  Brooks Koepka was 70th. In fact, Woods had won five tournaments that season before he got to the PGA.

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Both Dufner and Micheel played against the best competition and won. Could Conners do the same?

With the quality of players at the top of the leaderboard, it’s possible that today’s leader won’t be tomorrow’s winner. There is still another 18 holes of a treacherous golf course to conquer.