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Koepka challenge inspiring rivals like Tiger once did

Jim SLATER
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Defending champion Brooks Koepka seized a record seven-stroke lead after 54 holes at the PGA Championship

Defending champion Brooks Koepka seized a record seven-stroke lead after 54 holes at the PGA Championship (AFP Photo/Mike Ehrmann)

Bethpage (United States) (AFP) - Record-smashing PGA Championship leader Brooks Koepka says his secrets to success are simpler than people think while rivals are being inspired like Tiger Woods once motivated them.

Three-time major winner Koepka fired a level-par 70 Saturday to stand on 12-under 198 and seize a 54-hole tournament-record seven-stroke lead entering Sunday's final round at Bethpage Black.

No man has led a major by so much so late and lost.

A victory would restore Koepka to the world number one ranking and make him the fifth PGA wire-to-wire winner after Hal Sutton in 1983, Ray Floyd in 1982, Jack Nicklaus in 1971 and Bobby Nichols in 1964.

Koepka, whose calm under pressure and focus on shotmaking have become trademarks, shakes off any tensions the moment might bring.

"Just another round of golf," Koepka said. "It's just like any other round I've ever played. I'm going to try to play a good, solid round.

"It would be nice to be able to make a 10 on the last hole and be OK."

Koepka takes pride in being "pretty flatlined most of the time" but says he's not doing anything his rivals couldn't match.

"I feel like it's simpler than what guys think," Koepka said. "Guys make the mistake of trying to figure out, when they get to a major, what's going on, what's different.

"It's not. It's just focus. It's grind it out, suck it up, and move on.

"You're going to make a lot of mistakes. It's a major championship. You know it's going to happen and guys have a hard time letting that go."

A second-place pack after three rounds includes top-ranked Dustin Johnson, fellow Americans Luke List and Harold Varner and Thailand's Jazz Janewattananond.

Varner, for one, hasn't given up.

"You can't sit there and just weep and be like, 'He's so much better,'" Varner said. "I think that's going to push you. It almost pisses me off."

- 'Why people work out' -

But it wasn't lost on him that when Koepka was asked how he had the power to blast out of dense rough, he replied, "That's why I go to the gym."

Varner says Koepka is great for golf and will push rivals to improve their mental focus and fitness to maximize driving distance just as Woods did when he started winning majors at the 1997 Masters.

"If you don't go to sleep and think, 'Man, this makes me want to work harder (so) I can be that good,' then I don't know why you're playing," Varner said.

"It's going to make the other guys push themselves. Some guys won't, but it's pretty much what Tiger did for golf in general.

"It's the reason why people work out. It's the reason why people are so good. It's the reason why Brooks is doing what he's doing right now."

List echoes Varner's feelings on having to try and chase down Koepka.

"If we don't get up trying to win a championship tomorrow, then all of us have no chance," List said. "So it's out there. There have been some low rounds this week and I don't know what the wind is supposed to do.

"But if you go out there and shoot 5- or 6-under, you never know what can happen. I can't control what Brooks is doing. He has been playing tremendous golf and I just hope that I have a good day and that he doesn't have his best day."