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PGA C’ship leader Brooks Koepka gets chance to ease Masters ‘choking’ pain

ROCHESTER – Brooks Koepka blamed himself for “choking” away the Masters in April after entering the final day with a four-stroke lead and 30 holes to play.

The four-time Major winner, who squandered that lead and lost the Green Jacket to world No. 1 Jon Rahm, will have his chance at redemption on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

Koepka fired a four-under 66 for the second consecutive day on Saturday at Oak Hill to stand on six-under 204 after 54 holes, one stroke ahead of Norway’s Viktor Hovland and Canada’s Corey Conners, who both carded 70s.

The American star, among those who departed the PGA Tour for Saudi-financed LIV Golf, said the hard-earned lessons of Augusta have helped him play well this week.

“I think that was a big thing for me,” he said.

“Learning what I learned at Augusta kind of helped today. I won’t do it again the rest of my career. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go play bad. You can play good, you’ll play bad, but I’ll never have that mindset or that won’t ever be the reason.”

Koepka has kept the lessons to himself but it clearly will change how he handles a lead in the final round as he chases his first Major title since 2019 and his first since a major right knee operation in 2021.

Winning his first Major since missing much of the past two years would be sweet, he added.

“It would mean a lot,” he said. “To win one would be fantastic. Just got to go out and go play good tomorrow.”

Koepka would join Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only players with five Major titles since 1990.

He would also have three PGA Championship triumphs, a career mark in stroke play exceeded only by Woods and Jack Nicklaus.

A winner in April’s LIV event at Orlando, he has worked hard on conditioning in his comeback from knee surgery.

“I thought all I had to do was be healthy,” he said. “But having an off-season to bust my butt and be in the gym every day, working on different recovery, it has been really good.

“Now it starts to look like a real knee, or as good as it’s going to look. I’m super pleased with it.”

Hovland and Conners had shared the second-round overnight lead with world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler.

But Scheffler cracked in the miserable conditions, taking four bogeys on his first nine, including two to start his day, on the way to a three-over 73 that put the American four back alongside Briton Justin Rose (69). AFP, REUTERS