Tue, 16 Jul 2019

Bethpage - Back-to-back major runner-up efforts have given Dustin Johnson confidence in his game even as he settled for a career runner-up Grand Slam by finishing second on Sunday at the PGA Championship.

Brooks Koepka captured his fourth major title and took back the world number one ranking from Johnson despite serious pressure from his pal that saw a record seven-stroke lead trimmed to a single shot.

Koepka finished on eight-under par 272 after a closing 74 for a two-shot victory at Bethpage Black.

Johnson, whose only major win came at the 2016 US Open, has runner-up major finishes at the 2011 British Open, 2015 US Open, last month's Masters and the PGA.

But he's in good company with the "Second-place Slam" alongside Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Greg Norman, Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Tom Watson and Craig Wood.

As dubious as it might sound, it's a sign Johnson is right where he needs to be for another major breakthrough soon.

"I'm pleased with where the game's at, especially we've still got a lot of big tournaments left this year. I'm very happy with that," Johnson said. "I feel like my game has been pretty good all year. I felt like I really played well tee-to-green."

Koepka began the final round with a PGA record seven-stroke lead. No man led by so much so late and lost. But Johnson pounded away at Koepka and made him crack if not shatter fully.

"I knew starting seven back that it was going to be a big feat to catch Brooks. I definitely gave him a run, though, so I was happy with that," Johnson said.

"I knew it was going to play tough. The wind was up. It was the most wind we've had all week. I knew if I could get off to a good start, which I did, that I could maybe put a little bit of pressure on him and did that too."

Koepka made four bogeys in a row through the par-3 14th and Johnson birdied 15 for the fourth day in a row to trail by only one. But he went over the green on 16 and made bogey then missed the green at the par-3 17th and made another bogey.

Once again so close but unable to win.

"Just the last three holes is what got me," Johnson said.

"I needed to play well finishing, but I gave it a run. That's all you can ask for."

Johnson, however, felt he missed the chance to win in earlier rounds by not making more birdies.

"The first three days, I didn't make enough putts. I hit the ball plenty good enough to have been tied with Brooks going into Sunday. I just didn't make enough putts," Johnson said.

"Today I felt like I rolled the putter a lot better. In these tough conditions, tough wind, even the putts that I missed looked like they were going in. Hit the ball really well."

His effort was especially pleasing given the brutal gusty wind conditions.

"The wind was howling in my face," he said. "The wind was just really eating the ball up when you were hitting it into it. It was definitely one of the tougher days we've played in."

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