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Koepka wins PGA Championship in landmark win for LIV Golf

ROCHESTER, New York – Brooks Koepka claimed a PGA Championship hat-trick and a landmark major win for LIV Golf on Sunday but the day also belonged to Michael Block, a 46-year-old club professional, who capped a golfing fairytale with a hole-in-one.

Koepka, saying he had learned his lessons from last month’s Masters when he led by two going into the final round before a collapse opened the door for Jon Rahm to grab the Green Jacket, began the day with a one-shot advantage and would not let go.

In a cool, clinical display, Koepka returned a three-under 67 for a winning total of nine-under 271 and a two-shot victory over world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler and Norway’s Viktor Hovland.

The win gives Koepka a fifth major and third PGA Championship to go with back-to-back wins in 2018 and 2019.

“This is incredible. This is wild,” said Koepka, who had seen his career stalled by knee injuries and surgery. “I look back at where we were two years ago, everything that’s gone on, I’m so happy I’m kind of at a loss for words.

“But this is just the coolest thing.”

With 33-year-old Koepka clinging to a one-shot lead, the turning point came at the par-four 16th where the big-hitting American had a birdie and Hovland a double-bogey after trouble in a fairway bunker, opening up a four-shot cushion.

The win will also be remembered as a landmark moment for LIV Golf, Koepka’s major victory the first by a member of the controversial Saudi-bankrolled circuit providing badly needed validation.

Critics of LIV Golf have branded the big-money venture as uncompetitive and little more than a sportwashing enterprise by a country eager to polish its human rights record.

Koepka’s win will not end the human rights questions but will give LIV Golf a bit of the credibility and respect it is demanding.

For all the magic produced by golf’s biggest names at Oak Hill none could match what Block, an unknown club professional, conjured up.

Already a fan favourite before the final round teed off, Block, one of 20 teaching professionals in the field, added to a Rocky-like Hollywood script when his tee shot at the par-three 15th soared into the air and slammed straight into the cup without even rattling the flagstick.

The moment left Block, who was playing with four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, in disbelief.

“No, no, no way. Rory did it go in?“ Block said on the tee as spectators erupted in wild scenes around the green.

Block, who has “Why Not” written on his golf balls, became the every man blue-collar hero and gallery darling at Oak Hill by carrying the hopes and dreams of every duffer who has picked up a club.

His legion of fans have not seen the last of the charismatic club pro who finished with a one-over 71 – good enough for a tie for 15th and automatic entry into next year’s PGA Championship. REUTERS