The first thing that Rafael Nadal did after beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Rogers Cup final on Sunday was to check the live score of the PGA Championship.
Considering that the World No. 1 had to overcome a bit of a crisis at the end of the second set clearly the golf had been in his head for a long time – probably during all those service games that he held till the tail-end of the second dropping a cumulative two points before he was broken serving for the match at 5-4.
“I’ve got to check on Tiger!” Nadal said before signing off the camera.
At the time, for the second major running, Tiger Woods was smack in the middle of a battle to win the title. Just behind Adam Scott and Brooks Koepka, with three holes to play in the final round, the odds were slightly against Woods, but the fans definitely were not.
Woods played some of his best golf for a decade on Sunday, and finished with 64 – his lowest ever at a final round of a major.
But by the time he finished his round, the PGA Championship was Koepka’s to lose, which was further rubberstamped by Scott missing his putt on the 17th, which could’ve brought him to within one ahead of the 18th.
By getting the business done on the 18th, Koepka won his third major title. It is the third that he has won of the past seven majors – one of which he missed out on, meaning that the American has won half of the majors that he has contested in over the past year and a half.
Koepka has now won back to back US Open titles in 2017 and 2018 along with the PGA Championship. He is only the fifth golfer in history to win the US Open and the PGA Championship in the same year joining the likes of Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Woods.
What is also the most striking fact about his major wins is that they constitute 75% of his silverware collection thus far. The 28 year old has only won one PGA title outside of the majors in his entire career. And while that proves that Koepka truly has become a major threat, and is indeed big time player, it also means that success elsewhere should be around the corner for the American.
When Koepka won his first major at the US Open last year, he was the seventh straight first time major winner beginning with Jason Day’s PGA Championship win in 2015. Danny Willett, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jimmy Walker winning the four majors in 2016 meant the entire year was swept by first timers.
This string of maiden wins was a corollary of what had begun to be called as the post-Tiger era, with none of the golfers managing to dominate with anything remotely resembling dominance of Woods, who hasn’t won a major since the 2008 US Open.
Rory McIlroy, who won four majors between 2011 and 2014 looked like taking up that mantle. Between 2015 and 2017 Jordan Spieth won three majors, and looked like creating a rivalry between the two to define this era.
And now Koepka is in the mix, with three majors of his own, and would need wins elsewhere – which would further bolster his ranking as well – to cement himself as very much part of the discussion as the most dominant golfer in the world right now.
Using his strength as a formidable forte, Koepka continues to exhibit nerves of steel and unflappable resolve, especially at the deep end of the biggest tournaments in the sport. On Sunday, he was being chased by the most ruthless hunter the game has ever seen in Woods, but he continued to let the iron in his club and in his resolve do the talking.
“Other than me, my team, everybody was rooting for Tiger,” said Koepka after winning the championship. “It kind of pushes you to step up your game.”
That is precisely what he did, fending off the challenges of both Woods and Scott. And while Tiger Woods’ return to major contention might be bringing up the ratings, it is Koepka with three majors in six played over 14 months that is exhibiting a major winning run that very few have managed to put together in the history of the sport.
What he is also doing is becoming the man to beat in an era where the big-hitters are looking to cement their authority as the leader of the pack, since Woods gave up that throne.
Even so, what we’ve witnessed over the past month or so is the fact that among those looking to become the next Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods himself.