Koepka never flinched as he climbed the fifth-major mountain, finding rarefied air upon reaching the summit
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — On July 13, 1968, Gary Player won his fifth major, the 97th Open Championship at Carnoustie. Since Player raised the fifth of what would eventually be nine trophies representing the biggest championships in golf, 20,035 days have elapsed — nearly 55 years. Only seven of those days (0.03% of them) have ended with a men’s golfer winning his fifth major championship.
Today was one of those seven days.
True history is made so rarely in golf. The sport mostly involves a factory of unknown, unrecognizable players plodding along at a variety of mostly meaningless events. The harsh reality of golf is that it mostly happens in obscurity, documented by nothing but scores and finishes and sometimes money.
Millions of professional golf shots are hit every year, and the overwhelming majority — in fact, nearly all of them — do not matter whatsoever.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, though, is this truth: All 271 shots Brooks Koepka hit this week at the 2023 PGA Championship go directly into the canon.
That’s because, with his victory by two strokes over Viktor Hovland and Scottie Scheffler, Koepka joined a comically good (and short) list. Since that Open won by Player those 55 years ago, only six men had won a fifth major: Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Seve Ballesteros. Now, you can count Koepka among them.
Fifty-five years — over 200 major championships — and only seven times has a player won a fifth. And we were fortunate enough to watch one of those unlikelihoods unfold Sunday afternoon at Oak Hill Country Club.
At 2:29 ET, Koepka ambled as only he can amble to the first tee; he shook Viktor Hovland’s hand, reminding him of the one-stroke lead he held entering the final 18 holes. It was the same spot Koepka found himself in back in April when he led eventual 2023 Masters champion Jon Rahm by two and then took three hooks and a devastating knockout blow to the face over the next nine holes.
It was that loss Koepka referenced nearly every day this week as he claimed to have learned a massive lesson at Augusta National, promising he would not fail if faced with a similar opportunity again.
Fail he did not. Instead, he just delivered.
Koepka birdied three of the first four holes while trying to put Hovland away as early as he could.