|-6 P. Koepka (USA); -5 V Hovland (North), C Conners (Can); -3 P. Dechambeau (United States); -2 J Rose (Eng), S Scheffler (USA); -1 R McIlroy (nee)|
|Determinant: level block M (USA); +1 T Fleetwood (Eng), S Lowry (Ir); +4 t hatton (m); +6 J Ram (spa)|
Two-time champion Brooks Koepka leads by one shot into the final round of the US PGA Championship on Sunday with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy among an impressive group of contenders in Oak Hill.
American Koepka, winner in 2018 and 2019, collected a four-under 66 in the pouring rain to move to six-under in the aggregate.
Victor Hovland and Corey Conners are within one distance at fifth under New York State, two ahead of Bryson Dechambeau.
Rose and Scottie Scheffler are fourth, with McIlroy trailing by five.
Northern Ireland’s McIlroy, who captured the last of his four major titles at this tournament in 2014, often found himself battling his own swing as well as some miserable conditions on the track as he battled to stay in the competition.
“It’s funny,” he said, “I was more accepting of a ball going in the rough today, and actually hit more fairways because of it.”
“It just appears if you have a more relaxed attitude, it seems to work a little bit better.”
The world number three started quickly with two birdies in his first five holes, but three bogeys in the next four threatened to derail his round.
However, his three birdies on the back nine helped him score a credible one-under-par 69 for the second day in a row.
England’s Rose, who said he was “going in the right direction” since winning the Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, also took a 69 in an innings that featured several fine long putts.
The 42-year-old, who achieved his solo major victory a decade ago at the US Open, racked up more birdies (14) than any other player this week. He, along with Hovland, Connors and Michael Block, are the only players to score three innings of par or better.
Block, the head pro at California’s Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, impressed again as he completed his third consecutive par-70 to stay in the top ten and six strokes out of the lead.
“I was all the way in,” said Rose, who clenched her fists and slapped playing partner Block on the shoulder after the 46-year-old American drilled a birdie putt on the 14th.
The crowd loves [Block]. There was a lot of good energy. He’s a great player – very calm and a breath of fresh air.”
Block, who will play McIlroy in the final round, added: “I didn’t look at Rosie for the first three holes because I’m a huge fan and I’ve watched him my whole life.
“Had I done that I would have understood the fact that I was playing him in the third round of the PGA Championship – and I would have lost my mind.”
Rose Scheffler will have company on Sunday after the world number two hit four of his first seven holes in the worst rain as he scored 73 and slipped from the joint leader at the halfway point to four.
The brutal conditions add another layer of difficulty
Round Three started on Saturday in appalling conditions with torrential rain adding another layer of difficulty to the already punishing Oak Hill course.
World number one John Ramm was one of those who initially struggled in the flood and paid tribute to Adam Hayes.
“He must have had about 35 pounds of water on him,” said the Spaniard.
“You know, it’s the little things that I probably don’t realize, I just make sure the grips are dry, the racquet heads are dry and he sets himself up to help me as much as possible.
“On a day like this, it is much more difficult for them than it is for us.”
Ram, who won the Masters in April, scored a bogey six in his first 10 holes, but birdies on the fourth holes, 13th, 14th and 17th, helped him score a 72 to move to six-par.
Defending champion Justin Thomas – who came back from seventh in the final round to win in 2022 – also found it difficult, making six bogeys and one birdie in his 75 which saw him drop to 10 for par.
Koepka turned sarcasm into cheers
Koepka and his playing partner Bryson DeChambeau were booed on the first tee as the pair chose to join the Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf group.
However, by the time 33-year-old Koepka rocked a 47-foot birdie game on the 17th, that jeer had long since been replaced by cheers.
Kupka, who also won two US Open titles, spoke publicly about “choking” at the Masters last month, as he was four shots away from eventual winner Ram when play was suspended due to inclement weather in the third round.
And although he will still have to pass a rigorous test on Sunday, given the talent is at the top of the leaderboard, his form, physique and mental fortitude will make him a tough opponent to beat.
Back-to-back birdies in the fourth and fifth came as a result of his solid hitting and fine iron play, and as he cruised the seventh he remained patient and rewarded on the 12th and 13th holes as the rain abated briefly.
DeChambeau also battled well after dropping two putts in the fourth—a hole he called “the hardest in the majors”—for the second day in a row.
The first round leader posted birdies on the 14th and 15th holes to make a par of 70.
While Koepka and DeChambeau’s closing gaps were barely untouched by focus, Canada’s Conners and Norway’s Hovland, chasing their first major victory, will regret late mistakes.
Conners, who was flawless throughout and drove in the seventh after birdies in the eighth and fifteenth, hit his ball into a bunker bunker off the tee in the sixteenth.
To compound matters, he drilled his second putt into the face of the dugout, indenting his ball. And while he did get a free drop, he ended up with a double-bogey six—his only dropped shots of the round.
Hovland answered two early bogeys with three birdies midway through his run and looked set to join Koepka as joint leader but succumbed on the 18th after a grueling campaign from the tee.
Mickelson brings the horn
The 2005 and 2021 US PGA Champion Phil Mickelson made a little history of his own this week. He equaled the record of five-time winner Jack Nicklaus and two-time champion Ray Floyd with his 27th hit in this tournament. It is also the 100th time, out of 119 matches, that he will play all four Grand Tours.
“It just shows how old I am,” the 52-year-old laughed.
He endured a rough day, hitting a 75-game birdie, making it to No. 10 in his 30th appearance in the tournament.
However, he insisted: “I thought it was a fun and fair test. I really enjoyed the challenge. There are bird holes up there. It’s not impossible. It’s just hard play.”