PEBBLE BEACH, CA. (Reuters) – Brooks Koepka will have to do something new to win a fifth major championship on Sunday — come from four strokes off the pace in the final round.
Koepka has won the past two U.S. Opens and PGA Championships, and notched all those victories either from the lead or close to it in the final round.
He was one stroke behind at the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, and tied for the lead last year at Shinnecock Hills.
At the 2018 PGA Championship he was two shots in front, while at this year’s PGA he was seven ahead.
Nonetheless, Koepka issued a reminder that he is golf’s new big dog after carding a bogey-free three-under-par 68 at Pebble Beach on Saturday that left him equal third, four behind leader Gary Woodland and three adrift of Justin Rose.
“I feel as confident as ever right now,” said the world number one. “It’s probably the best ball-striking week I’ve had.
Asked what his biggest advantage on Sunday would be, he said: “Just having been in the position I’m in.
“Feels like almost every major right now. Second at (the Masters at) Augusta. I felt like I’ve put myself in good chances where I’m very comfortable around that.
“I don’t need to go out and chase. I don’t need to do much, just kind of let it come to you. And from there, if I win, great; if not, I’ve given it all I had this week and it’s just not my week.”
Koepka did not make as many putts as Woodland and Rose on Saturday, a 30-footer to save par at the 15th a notable exception, but he was not unhappy with his play on the greens.
“I feel like eventually these birdies have to come,” said the American.
“I’ve hit so many good putts that just haven’t gone in … they looked like they were right in the middle, and they just die off or bounce off, whatever you want to say.
“But they’re good putts, that’s really all I can ask.”
He will play in the penultimate pairing on Sunday, and knows that Woodland and Rose behind him will hardly be able to help but notice if he makes a charge.
Victory would make him the first player in more than a century to clinch the U.S. Open title three years in a row, after Willie Anderson from 1903 to 1905.
“If I can just make a few putts, I feel like I could be right there, right next to Gary,” Koepka said.
(Reporting by Steve Keating; Writing by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, editing by Nick Mulvenney)