Dustin Johnson has completed the so-close slam.
The former world No. 1 erased all but one stroke of a seven-shot deficit in the final round of the PGA Championship — not quite good enough to stop Brooks Koepka from winning the tournament for the second straight year.
Instead, Johnson left Bethpage Black with the No. 2 ranking and another second-place finish, giving him one in each of golf’s four majors.
“Obviously, I knew starting seven back that it was going to be a big feat to catch Brooks,” Johnson said after his 1-under 69 on Sunday left him two strokes behind Koepka. “I definitely gave him a run, though, so I was happy with that.”
It was Johnson’s second straight time as runner-up, having finished one stroke behind Tiger Woods at the Masters. Johnson also tied for second in the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, when he had a 12-foot eagle putt to win and three-putted for par to lose by one, and at the 2011 British Open at Royal St. George’s.
Koepka now has four majors.
And, thanks to Johnson, this one ranks No. 1.
“Today was definitely the most satisfying out of all of them, for how stressful that round was, how stressful D.J. made that,” Koepka said. “That was the most excited I’ve ever been in my life ever there on 18.”
On a day when the winds blew steadily at 23 mph and gusted even higher, Johnson was the only one who entered the final round in the top 25 to post a negative number, and the only one in the field to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds.
But Koepka’s record-breaking first 36 holes left him a big enough cushion to withstand his workout partner’s charge.
“Brooks is a great player. I play a lot of golf with him. He’s one of my good buddies,” Johnson said. “He’s one of the guys that I look for that I have to beat. He’s one of the best players out here, so he’s always somebody that I’ve got my eye on.”
Arriving on Long Island as the reigning PGA champion and the two-time defending U.S. Open winner, Koepka tamed the par-70 ,7,459-yard course with scores of 63 and 65 in the first two rounds and entered the weekend with a seven-stroke lead. He protected it with an even par on Saturday.
Johnson was tied for ninth after an opening-round 69 and moved up to fourth with a 67 on Friday. Another 69 left him in a four-way tie for second heading into the final day, when Koepka was so far ahead of the pack that it looked like the only competition would be for the best of the rest.
Luke List fell out of the race by going 4 over through seven holes, and Jazz Janewattananond shot 42 on the back nine to finish in a tie for 14th. Harold Varner III, who was playing with Koepka, double-bogeyed Nos. 3 and 4 while shooting 81 to drop to a tie for 36th.
But Johnson slowly chipped away at the lead — with some help from Koepka — until there was only one stroke separating them. The 2016 U.S. Open winner birdied No. 15 to move to 8 under, and Koepka had bogeyed four straight to drop to 9 under.
The crowd, which hadn’t expected to see much of a competition, began chanting “D.J.!”
“It’s New York,” Koepka said with a smile. “What do you expect, when you’re half-choking it away?”
Johnson was in the fairway on No. 16 with 194 yards to the hole and a strong wind blowing into his face. He had a 5-iron in his hand and thought about going back for a 4-iron; he stuck with the 5 — and flew the green with it.
“Obviously, not a spot where you can go,” he said. “The wind was just really eating the ball up when you’re hitting it into it. … I don’t know how it flew 200 yards into the wind like that.”
He pitched to within 8 feet and rolled the par putt past the hole. The one-stroke deficit was now two.
“I knew I needed to birdie one of the last two when I did that,” he said.
Instead, he made bogey on No. 17. Johnson was watching in the scoring tent when Koepka drove it into the left rough on No. 18, but he pitched onto the fairway and got up-and-down from there for the two-stroke victory.
“It’s why we play golf, is to be in these kind of situations. I had a great time out there today, even in these tough conditions,” Johnson said. “I gave it a good shot.”
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