Koepka bidding for back-to-back titles and other talking points ahead of PGA Championship

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Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka will be bidding to defend his PGA Championship title on Thursday as the second major of the year gets under way at Bethpage Black Course in New York.

Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.

Can Koepka retain PGA Championship?

The World No2 is shaping himself into becoming an unstoppable force over the last two years, combining a devastating game off the tee with a razor-sharp short game.

A win this weekend would mean the Florida man holds four of the last eight majors played, with one of the others being a T2 finish at the Masters last month.

Players like Dustin Johnson and Tiger Woods may be household names in America, but Koepka certainly deserves serious recognition among the golf public after being underrated in the game for so long.

Remarkably, he is 55-under par in the last 10 majors held – 15 shots better than any other player in that span.

It’s time to start taking this man seriously. He’s a class act.

How is Tiger looking after Masters triumph?

Tiger looked back to his scorching best after clinching a 15th major at Augusta last month, but the significant question will be whether he can carry his sterling form into the second major of the year.

The Jupiter resident has enjoyed tremendous success at the Farmingdale course over the years with victory at the 2002 US Open and a top-10 at the 2009 US Open.

Out of the top performing professionals with at least eight competitive rounds at Bethpage, Woods has the third best scoring average, behind Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen.

If there is anything to make you believe the iconic American will deliver this weekend, he has only won the year’s first two majors once in his career, and that was back in 2002, when they were staged at Augusta National and Bethpage Black.

Will Spieth complete career grand slam?

Since leaving Augusta ranked number three in the world last year, Jordan Spieth has slipped to 39th in the rankings and is looking devoid of confidence over short putts.

In fact, the 25-year-old has not achieved a top-10 finish in nearly nine months – stretching back to the British Open at Carnoustie in mid-July.

And, while there has been little evidence to suggest he could compete for a career grand slam this weekend, his last performance at Bethpage Black should give him some confidence, finishing in a tie for 10th back in 2016.

Perhaps a solid weekend with improved putting could elevate his confidence and overall game management back to a position where it should be.

Rory hitting top form

The best player in the world at the moment.

A blazing start to the season has seen Rory McIlroy win at the Players Championship, finish second in Mexico and clinch three top-5s and three top-10s from nine starts.

The 30-year-old currently leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained/tee to green and he recorded the second biggest victory of the season at Sawgrass in March.

The Northern Irishman has not secured a top-10 finish at the PGA Championship since winning Valhalla in 2014. But back to his immaculate best, McIlroy should be in serious contention this weekend.

Will America’s dominance at majors continue?

Tiger Woods’ victory at Augusta last month means American players currently hold six of the last eight majors, with Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari’s respective wins at the Masters and the Open being the only two held by European players since April 2017.

American players’ strong hold on the PGA Championship is also tight, winning the last three tournaments.

Based on current form, it’s difficult to see America golf’s dominance being toppled in New York this weekend or at the US Open now next month either.

The wait continues.

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Koepka sets target of winning at least 10 majors ahead of PGA Championship defence

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Defending US PGA champion Brooks Koepka has set himself the target of winning at least 10 majors.

The 29-year-old has three to his name but after winning back-to-back US Opens last year, he is looking to repeat that feat with his PGA title at Bethpage this week.

“I’ve got a number. I don’t see why you can’t get to double digits,” said the American, who was a joint runner-up to Tiger Woods at last month’s Masters, when asked at a press conference whether he had a target in mind.

“I think you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times. I think sometimes the majors are the easiest ones to win.

“Half the people shoot themselves out of it, and mentally I know I can beat most of them, and then from there it’s those guys left, who’s going to play good and who can win.

“I don’t see any reason it can’t get to double digits.”

It was a bold statement but Koepka has shown over the last two years he has the game and the temperament for the big occasion.

In his last 10 major appearances he has finished outside the top 13 just once, with three victories and three other top-five placings.

But having been denied by Woods at Augusta a month ago, he was asked whether he was concerned about a resurgence from his near-neighbour in Jupiter, Florida.

“I mean, what’s the point in fearing anybody? We’re not fighting,” he added.

“He’s not going to knock my teeth in. He’s not going to hurt me. So what’s there to be afraid of?

“I don’t see it as a rivalry. I mean, it’s just golf. It’s not like it’s been over 20, 30 years, it’s just really been the last couple of years.

“It is fun to play against him – the best player to ever play the game, and you guys (the media) wanting to talk about rivalry, I think that’s pretty cool to hear.

“It’s exciting for me. It’ll definitely be interesting. But I’m just looking forward to this week, to playing with him.”

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Mikko Korhonen into Race to Dubai top 20 after China Open triumph

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Mikko Korhonen clinched his second victory on the European Tour as he edged out Benjamin Hebert on the opening play-off hole at the Volvo China Open.

Nearly a year on from his win at the Shot Clock Masters in Austria, Korhonen carded seven birdies in his closing six-under-par 66 to draw level with Hebert, who held a three-shot lead overnight.

The pair could not be split on 20 under after 72 holes but it was Korhonen who held his nerve when they played the 18th again, the Finn sinking an 11-foot putt for birdie as his French opponent could only make par.

“It’s amazing. I don’t know how I did it, probably the putter today and most of the days,” said Korhonen, who collects 585 Race to Dubai points to surge from 98th to 17th on the Race to Dubai standings.

“All day it was a battle, everybody was making putts. I had to just stay there and make my putts and just concentrate on the moment.”

Four birdies on the back nine ignited the 38-year-old’s charge and even took him into the lead, only for Hebert to force a play-off with two birdies in the final three holes in his final round of 69.

Korhonen and Hebert finished one shot ahead of Spain’s Jorge Campillo, their third playing partner on Sunday, at Genzon Golf Club while home hope Li Haotong came fourth on 16 under overall.

England’s Jordan Smith made back-to-back gains at the end of his round to finish alongside four others on 15 under while Scotland’s Richie Ramsay was three shots further back in a share of 14th.

Provided by Press Association Sport 

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