SPRINGFIELD, N.J. — This is major, and it’s a good thing for Brooks Koepka.
Koepka is in contention at the PGA Championship as it slips and slides to a muddy, potentially on-schedule finish on Sunday. At 9 under par through three rounds — even as the final round started before he finished his third round — he trails leader Jimmy Walker by two shots, both in pursuit of their first major championship.
What’s remarkable is that Koepka is doing it all with a right ankle injury with torn ligaments that forced him out of the British Open two weeks ago. Were this not the final major of the year, the Florida State product wouldn’t be playing right now.
In fact, Koepka hadn’t walked 18 holes in nearly a month until Thursday here at Baltusrol.
“I wouldn’t have played this week if it weren’t a major,” said Koepka, who shot 2-under 68 to open and has improved by a shot each round.
Add that this is the final event for double Ryder Cup points. Koepka is right on the bubble of the eight automatic qualifiers, and a high finish in the PGA Championship all but locks up his position.
“Obviously it’s a major, but at the same time to make that Ryder Cup team, I don’t want to be a pick,” he said. “Just play my way on the team and see how it goes.”
Now, Koepka has to put his injury through the second half of a meat-grinder finish.
“I’ve got it taped up, have a brace on it,” Koepka said. “It feels alright now, but the real test will be walking 36 on it.”
With 18 holes between him, a maiden major title and a Ryder Cup spot, however, Koepka, spurred by drive and adrenaline, isn’t too worried about the pain at this point.
“I’ve got 18 holes to win a major,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I can explode off it.”
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