News & Opinion

PGA runners-up lament what might have been

Brooks Koepka at 2021 PGA Championship
Brooks Koepka fails to win his 5th major title, though he had some opportunities in the final round at the Ocean Course.

Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen squander plenty of chances in final round at Kiawah’s Ocean Course, finishing 2 strokes back

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen lost prime opportunities to put another major championship on their resumes.

Phil Mickelson beat Koepka and Oosthuizen at the 103rd PGA Championship here Sunday at the Ocean Course, but the runners-up did plenty to help.

Koepka, who began the final round one stroke behind Mickelson and paired with the eventual winner in the final group, shot 2-over 74. Oosthuizen shot 73. Anything under par would have changed possession of the Wanamaker Trophy. (For scores, click here.)

The challengers failed to make it much of an issue as Oosthuizen, playing in the group behind Mickelson and Koepka, didn’t make a birdie until the par-5 seventh hole and looked uncomfortable until the very end, when his chance to win was nil.

Related: Lowcountry for Old Men: Mickelson's win in photos

At the same time, Koepka made an early statement with a birdie on the first hole, part of a two-shot swing to grab the lead, but gave it up with a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 second hole. Then, he failed to take advantage of the drivable par-4 third hole with the tees up, missing a 3-footer for birdie.

Louis Oosthuizen at 2021 PGA Championship
Louis Oosthuizen comes up 2 strokes short of a 2nd major championship.

“I tried to be as aggressive as I could without doing stupid things,” Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open winner from South Africa, said after his fifth second-place finish in a major. “You know, 13, my third shot, I felt like I had to be aggressive to give myself maybe a 15-footer for par and just caught it off the heel, and if it's windy like that in a crosswind, you know the wind is going to take it into the water.”

Over the first three holes, Koepka had lost no ground to Mickelson despite a double bogey. But Koepka, as the chaser, needed to apply pressure and ultimately didn’t bring enough of it.

“Those first four holes are not that hard,” Mickelson said. “One is downwind. If you hit a decent shot, it's a sand wedge in. Two, I think I hit a 2-wood off the tee and a 4-iron in. You should birdie those holes. Three was drivable, and I played them, you know, [1] over par, so I was just not making committed swings, and I think Brooks had a couple poor swings, too, and we just weren't steady.”

Koepka then went into a funk that included four bogeys over seven holes in the middle of the round. He went from one shot behind to five shots back after a bogey on the 13th, the hardest hole of the tournament.

“I'm super disappointed, pretty bummed; I'm not happy,” said Koepka, whose four major championships include the 2018 and 2019 PGAs. “I don't know if there's a right word I can say on here without getting fined, but it hurts a little bit. It's one of those things where I just never felt comfortable over the putts. I don't know why, what happened.”

Oosthuizen didn’t have the same view as Koepka, but he knew that he simply didn’t get it done.

“I feel like I'm playing my heart out to get a second major, and I do know I have the game to do it,” Oosthuizen said. “This was close. My game wasn't great on the weekend. It was better today than yesterday. So, I just need to work harder on it to get myself in contention again.”

Mickelson, just three weeks shy of his 51st birthday, had shown little game and entered PGA week at 300-1 odds to win. The last man standing might have been the least likely of the three to win it, but he did.

More Morning Read Sunday coverage from 2021 PGA Championship:

Phil Mickelson wins PGA -- is this his greatest thrill?
Mickelson adds to his legend with 6th major, 2nd PGA
Runners-up lament what might've been
List of oldest major champions now begins with Phil
Photos: A Sunday like no other at Kiawah
Final purse, prize money and payouts from 2021 PGA Championship

Sign up to receive the Morning Read newsletter, along with Where To Golf Next and The Equipment Insider.