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PGA Championship: Brooks Koepka just one off lead, but needs to improve putting on final day

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“That was the worst putting performance I think I’ve ever had in my career. Can’t get much worse. I thought 70 was about the highest I could have shot today.”

Brooks Koepka explains what he needs to do better on the greens if he’s to overturn a one-shot deficit in the final round and registered a third PGA Championship victory in four years

Brooks Koepka was excited about his chances of contending for a third PGA Championship victory despite describing his third-round putting performance as “the worst of my career”.

Koepka struggled to get to grips with the pace of the greens at Kiawah Island and felt his two-under 70 was poor reward for his ball-striking from tee to green, although he did manage to make five birdies against three bogeys to finish one shot adrift of Phil Mickelson.

The champion of 2018 and 2019, still hampered by the knee issue which required surgery a few weeks before the Masters, made a significant move with birdies at 10 and 12 before Mickelson, who was five shots clear after an outward 32, bogeyed the 12th and then pulled his drive into water at the next, running up a double-bogey six.

Brooks Koepka works off the seventh tee during the third round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) Brooks Koepka works off the seventh tee during the third round at the PGA Championship golf tournament on the Ocean Course, Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Kiawah Island, S.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

A birdie at the long 16th following a stunning 284-yard second to 20 feet lifted Koepka into a share of the lead, but he went long with his approach to the last and needed three to get down, leaving him one behind going into Sunday’s final round.

Asked what the fix was for his putting, his reply was abrupt and clear. “Hit it harder,” he said. “That was the worst putting performance I think I’ve ever had in my career. Can’t get much worse. I thought 70 was about the highest I could have shot today.

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“I left a lot out there, but I’ve got a chance to win, so that’s all I wanted to do today is not give back any shots and be there tomorrow with a chance, and I’ve got that. I’m right where I want to be, and we’ll see how tomorrow goes. Just to be within three of the lead going into the back nine, you’ve got a chance.”

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Koepka’s round was just enough to secure a place in Sunday’s final pairing alongside Mickelson, and he believes being able to see first-hand how the veteran left-hander is playing will enhance his chances of landing a fifth major title.

“I’m in the final group, that’s what you want,” he added. “At least I can see what Phil is doing and then I don’t have to turn back and look and see what he’s up to. Looking forward to it, got a chance, and everybody will be in front of me so I know what I’ve got to do.

“I’ll have a good idea on the leaderboard what’s going on and I just need to putt better. Simple. If I strike it anything like I did the last three days, I’ll have a chance.”

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