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DJ rolls, Koepka 'stumbles' on a crowded day atop the PGA Championship

Jay Busbee
Brooks Koepka tries to keep it in play on a windy day at TPC Harding Park. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka tries to keep it in play on a windy day at TPC Harding Park. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The third round of the PGA Championship is in the books, and we’ve got faces both familiar and new at the top of the leaderboard. An astounding 17 players are within four shots of the lead, setting up for a strong Sunday, but only four of them are prior major winners ... meaning we could have a new member of golf’s pantheon by Sunday night.

Here’s what you need to know about a Moving Day that started bright and turned windy and gray. Nobody got too far out in front, and that means nobody’s a guaranteed winner on Sunday.  

Dustin Johnson strolls to the lead

In golf, as in life, one key to success is keeping your head while everyone else is losing theirs. At a moment when defending champ Brooks Koepka was in the midst of bogeying two straight holes, second-round leader Haotong Li was losing his ball in a cypress tree, and Cameron Champ was futzing around in the rough, DJ was just easing his way to a birdie on 17 to take the outright lead at -9. An eight-birdie day will do that for you. On the 10th anniversary of his blowup at the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, can he capture this major at last? 

Koepka’s unexpected “stumble”

We’re so accustomed to seeing Brooks Koepka chew up the rest of the leaderboard like some soulless threshing machine that it’s more than a mild shock when he falters. And on Saturday, he did exactly that, bogeying three straight holes from 13 to 15 to drop four strokes off the lead. (Naturally, he rebounded immediately with birdies on 16 and 18.) Koepka finished at -7, just two strokes behind DJ. 

Practice makes … frustration

Li spent hours on the range and the putting green after his round on Friday, drawing incredulous smiles from both Twitter and his fellow competitors. Li played decent enough golf through the first 12 holes, riding the wind of an ever-more-blustery Harding Park, but at hole 13, the course finally got the best of him. Li lost a ball in one of the towering cypress trees, double-bogeying that hole, and followed that up with another bogey to fall three strokes behind Johnson. He would finish the day at -5, four strokes off the lead.   

Scottie Scheffler’s spectacular debut

He bogeyed the final hole to give away the solo lead, but Scottie Scheffler, playing in his first-ever PGA Championship, delivered a beautiful 65 — tied with Collin Morikawa and Johnson for the low round of the day — to set himself up for a most impressive run on Sunday. Also right there with Scheffler at -8: Cameron Champ, the man whose name is made for a headline, also going for his first major.

Golf Romo has arrived

Phil Mickelson joined the CBS crew for a shift in the booth, and for a guy who’d rarely done anything more extensive behind a live mic than a postround interview, Mickelson was simply brilliant. He was as passionate as a hardcore fan — he cheered on several putts as they rolled — but he brought the knowledge of, well, a guy who had just played three rounds on this same course. (His breakdowns of how to work shots around the cypress trees and wicked rough of TPC Harding Park were masterful, even if no one listening could pull one off.) 

The conventional wisdom has held that Mickelson would easily slide his way onto the Champions Tour and gladhand his way through majors for another decade or so, but he may have just talked himself into a new job. 

Tiger prowls in silence

If you didn’t focus too much, you could almost forget that there was no gallery at the PGA Championship … except when someone was introduced, when someone dropped an approach shot to the edge of the cup, or when Tiger Woods did anything at all. 

“I've been accustomed to playing with a lot of people, and a lot of sounds and a lot of movement for my entire career,” Woods said after his round. “Some of the guys were joking with me at Memorial saying, ‘Now you know how we feel.’ You go around play 36 holes, sometimes 72 holes in peace and quiet.”

But Woods dismissed the idea that the lack of galleries would have an impact on anyone positive or negative. “We see Brooksy [Koepka] up there [atop the leaderboard] again,” he said. “Guys who understand how to play tough golf courses and tough venues tend to be up there, whether there's crowds or no crowds.”

Jordan Spieth’s struggles continue

It’s been years since Jordan Spieth moved the needle at a major, but he’s still a fascinating character study … only now, it’s a question of what the hell happened to him. After he scrambled his way over the cut line on Friday, he absolutely fell apart, carding an eight-bogey 76 to end up tied for last on the weekend. Even more painful: he was paired with his old pal Justin Thomas, who long ago eclipsed Spieth in everything but majors won. JT finished with a 68, and while he may not win this weekend, he looks a lot better bet to win one — or several — before Spieth does again. 

The PGA Championship concludes Sunday afternoon, with television coverage on ESPN and CBS. 


Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him with tips and story ideas at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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