PGA Championship Notebook: Johnson struggles in windy conditions, misses chance to catch Koepka
FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka's coronation in this PGA Championship nearly got blown off the golf course.
It didn't because his main competition, Dustin Johnson, had just as much trouble keeping his ball in play down the stretch.
Johnson was within one stroke of his close friend after a birdie on No. 15, a hole he birdied all four rounds. The 3 added significant tension to what had looked like a runaway win by Koepka. Until Koepka's seven-shot lead and the way he was mastering the course disappeared in a flurry of bogeys on the back nine after a birdie at No. 10.
Two of the longest and strongest players on the PGA Tour struggled mightily with the swirling winds that at times reached 20 mph in some spots.
"I knew today, starting off, that it was going to play tough," said Johnson, who wound up two shots behind Koepka and will relinquish the No. 1 ranking to the winner. "You know, the wind was up. It was the most wind we've had all week."
The gusts might have been at their worst on the 16th hole, where Koepka pretty much clinched his second straight PGA, his fourth major, and became the first player to hold two back-to-back major crowns at the same time.
Johnson was having what had been by far the best round of the day. He was at 8 under overall when his tee shot on 16 landed smack in the middle of the fairway. But from 194 yards, his 5-iron approach caught a gust and soared over the green into nasty rough.
A nice chip out of that toward a flag whipping in the wind got Johnson to seven feet, but he missed the putt.
Varner's 81 worst round in final group of a major
After getting supportive messages from Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan the night before, Harold Varner III could not have had a better start to the final round of the PGA Championship.
The 28-year-old journeyman pro birdied the first hole at Bethpage Black playing in the final pairing to draw within five strokes of eventual champion Brooks Koepka, who bogeyed the hole.
It was the best thing to happen to Varner on Sunday.
The 174th-ranked player in the world shot an 11-over-par 81 and went from sole possession of second place to finishing tied for 36th with a 6-over score.
It marked the first time a player in the last pairing on the final day shot in the 80s.