We are halfway through the men’s major championship calendar in 2019 and a familiar face is at the top of the golf world yet again. Brooks Koepka delivered a gritty performance at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, bursting out of the gate with an opening 7-under 63 before staving off a late charge from Dustin Johnson to win the PGA Championship. The wire-to-wire victory is Koepka’s fourth major championship title, all coming in the past 23 months.
Elsewhere, Helen Alfredsson, of Sweden, outlasted a group of major champions that included Juli Inkster and Laura Davies to win the second U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship, and U.S. Open sectional qualifying is underway, as players look to secure their spot in the 119th U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Here are three things to know, as we recap a busy weekend in golf and look ahead at the week to come:
Back to Brooks
For most of the PGA Championship it seemed like a foregone conclusion. But what started as a coronation quickly unraveled into a drama-filled final two hours on Sunday. After four consecutive bogeys on Bethpage Black’s back nine, Koepka’s lead, which had reached nine on Saturday afternoon, dwindled to just one stroke. But showing his characteristic mettle, Koepka righted the ship to grind out another impressive major championship victory, holding on to beat Johnson by two strokes in the year’s second major.
The milestones are beginning to pile up for Koepka, who ascended to the top spot in the Official World Golf Ranking with the win. He is the first player to own back-to-back victories in two different majors simultaneously: the PGA Championship and U.S. Open. Koepka has now won four of the last eight majors in which he has competed, joining Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan as the only men since World War II to accomplish that feat.
Up next for Koepka: a date with history at Pebble Beach, where he is seeking to join Willie Anderson in 1905 as the only winners of three consecutive U.S. Open Championships.
Two-time U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Alfredsson got her long-awaited USGA title on Sunday, edging Trish Johnson and five-time USGA champion Inkster by two strokes in the second U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. Alfredsson was the only player to shoot two rounds in the 60s on the venue that will also host the 2022 U.S. Women’s Open.
A quarter century after she blitzed the field with an opening 63 – an 18-hole scoring record that still stands – but squandered a four-stroke 36-hole advantage in the 1994 U.S. Women’s Open, Alfredsson delivered a consistent performance on Sunday, parring her final 13 holes in a closing 72. She mostly relied on her ball-striking to overpower her fellow competitors, leading the field in both driving distance and greens in regulation.
With the victory, Alfredsson receives an exemption into next week’s 74th U.S. Women’s Open at the Country Club of Charleston (S.C.).
The Path to Pebble Continues
Sectional qualifying is underway, as 927 competitors try to earn their spot into the 156-player field at the 119th U.S. Open Championship at Pebble Beach. Qualifying is conducted over 36 holes at 12 sites, nine of them in the U.S., one in England, one in Japan, and, for the first time, one in Canada. The first qualifier was held on May 20 in Dallas, where 102 players competed for 10 spots. To follow sectional qualifying, click here.
Each year, many PGA Tour winners and major champions, as well as aspiring club pros and elite amateurs, go through the rigorous qualifying process. Two players – Ken Venturi (1964) and Orville Moody (1969) – have won the U.S. Open after going through both local and sectional qualifying, while six others – Gene Littler (1961), Julius Boros (1963), Jerry Pate (1976), Steve Jones (1996), Michael Campbell (2005) and Lucas Glover (2009) –won the title after advancing through sectional qualifying.
Mike Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.