Koepka maintains strong lead going into final round of US PGA Championship

Defending champion Brooks Koepka will take a commanding lead into the final round of the US PGA Championship after none of his challengers took advantage of some rare flashes of fragility at Bethpage.

Koepka, who had followed a course record of 63 with a 65 to set the lowest halfway total in major championship history, briefly saw his tournament-record seven-stroke lead reduced to five, but ended the day exactly where he had started.

A third round of 70 left Koepka on 12 under par and seven shots ahead of world number one Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner, Luke List and Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond, with England’s Matt Wallace and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama a shot further back.

Koepka is seeking a remarkable fourth major victory in his last eight starts and, because of the US PGA’s move from August to May, can become the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time following his US Open wins in 2017 and 2018.

The 29-year-old missed a short birdie putt on the first after a 337-yard drive, but birdied the second and fifth before surprisingly missing from two feet for par on the ninth.

Another bogey on the 10th, combined with List making a hat-trick of birdies from the 12th, meant the gap was down to five, only for Koepka to birdie the 13th and then see his rivals falter in the closing stages.

American Xander Schauffele equalled the lowest score of the day with a 67 to share eighth place with Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott and Patrick Cantlay, but admitted Koepka’s dominance was making for a strange atmosphere.

“I don’t know if the tournament is just less fun because I’m 15 shots back or whatever it is,” Schauffele said. “But it’s very melancholic because every time I look up I’m 10 to 12 back. No-one likes to play for second, but that’s sort of what he’s doing to us.

“It is a weird thing. This is a major championship, and everyone is here to win, but there’s only one guy who’s absolutely just destroying this place. So I’m sure he’s having a blast. But for the rest of us, he’s making it awfully boring.”

Earlier in the day Rory McIlroy had threatened to make a significant move after following an eagle on the fourth by coming within inches of a hole-in-one on the eighth, but eventually had to settle for a 69 to finish two over par and was left to join the chorus of approval for Koepka’s performance.

“It’s awesome. It’s so good,” McIlroy said. “It’s great to watch. He’s definitely, in these events, playing on a different level than most anyone else.

“I hit the ball as good as I’ve hit it in a while, gave myself plenty of chances. If I had made a couple of putts I could definitely have shot 65, 66 easily out there today.

“If you look at the last nine I played yesterday and the first nine today I was seven under par for those 18 holes so it’s just about putting it all together on the right day.

“I definitely felt like I left four or five out there, but you have to put it all together to shoot a really good score. I was close to doing that today but just not quite.”

- Press Association

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