PGA Championship 2018: Three things we learned at Bellerive

Brooks Koepka - cropped
Golfer Brooks Koepka (Getty Images)

The 2018 PGA Championship ushered in a new era for golf, with rising star Brooks Koeopka holding off Tiger Woods Sunday to secure his third major title.

Bellerive Country Club was wet and soft all week after torrential rain Tuesday and Friday. Koepka took advantage of the benign scoring conditions, shooting 16 under for the week.

Woods, after starting the tournament 3 over through two holes, played the rest of the event in 17 under, ultimately finishing two shots behind Koepka for his best major championship finish since 2009.

Here are three things we learned from the 100th PGA Championship:

1. Tiger Woods is still a force — Rewind back to the end of 2013, Woods had just won five times on Tour, including his second Players Championship and eighth WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. It appeared he had fully recovered from the knee injury and shame that had plagued him since the end of 2008. But four back surgeries, multiple failed comeback attempts and four years later, Woods stepped on the tee box of the Hero Wold Challenge in 2017 hoping to finally stick around for a while.

Not only has Woods now remained healthy for his longest stretch since 2013, he has also shown signs his dominance could return. Woods has seven top-12 finishes this year, including two runner-up finishes and a t-6 at the Open Championship. He’s been long off the tee, accurate with his irons, and solid around the greens. His charge Sunday at Bellerive was reminiscent of his older days. If his back holds up, he could still challenge Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors.

2. Brooks Koepka is the most reliable closer of the “new generation” — This isn’t even really close. Koepka, 28, now has won three of the last six majors. He’s barely been on the scene, starting his career on the Challenge Tour in Europe. But the long-hitting former Florida State star has cultivated quite the reputation as a closer over the last two years. Both at the U.S. Open and at the PGA Championship, he stated that no one could beat him if he plays his best golf. And then he went out and won.

Guys like Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson are arguably more consistent than Koepka on a week-to-week basis, but they’ve had trouble coming through when in contention in majors. Koepka doesn’t have that problem, and he looks like a real contender for 10 majors in his career.

3. Golf is in good shape — A new star was affirmed (Koepka), an old legend was renewed (Woods), a fan favorite refound his form (Adam Scott) and countless young stars flirted with the top of the leaderboard. It was a great tournament for the game, signifying the sport’s growth, yet also reminding everyone of the past. 

Woods and Koepka were the obvious headliners, but just below them, tied for fourth, was Jon Rahm. Also, tied for sixth was Thomas Pieters, who broke out in 2016 at the Ryder Cup with a 4-1-0 record. The 2018 PGA Championship offered golf fans a little bit of everything, and signified how healthy the sport’s competition level is right now.