Paul Casey admitted he felt in need of some emotional support after ending a tough week at the US PGA Championship by predicting Brooks Koepka would face a battle before successfully defending his title.
Casey saved his best until last at Bethpage with a final round of 69 leaving him on five over par, 17 shots behind runaway leader Koepka, who took a tournament-record seven-shot lead into the last day.
“There’s a dog beside the 18th green with a little jacket on that says ‘Emotional Support Dog’ which is what I feel like I need after playing that golf course,” Casey said with a smile. “It’s so difficult.
“Its reputation is true, plain and simple. This place exaggerates any error that you make. It just gets to the point where you’re just trying to get out of here.
What Brooks is doing so far is unbelievable. I think he’ll win but it’s going to be a really tough golf course today.”
Koepka had followed a course record of 63 on Thursday with a second round of 65 to set the lowest halfway total in major championship history.
He maintained his lead over world number one Dustin Johnson, Harold Varner, Luke List and Jazz Janewattananond with a third round of 70.
The 29-year-old American is 67 under par in majors since the start of the 2016 US PGA, 26 shots better than any other player during that span, and is seeking a remarkable fourth major victory in his last eight starts.
With the US PGA moving from August to May this year, Koepka can also become the first player to hold back-to-back titles in two majors at the same time following his US Open wins in 2017 and 2018.
“I read that he was taking a leaf out of Jack Nicklaus’s book about how half the field will not play well and he’s only got to beat a certain number of guys at a major, and he’s right, and he backs it up, as well,” Casey added.
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“He’s that good. His ability is that good and he believes in it and he’s got the confidence.”
The best score from the early starters was a 68 from American Beau Hossler, with Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell having to settle for a 70 after covering the front nine in 33.
“My game feels good, it really does,” said McDowell, who will return to the scene of his 2010 US Open triumph next month when the championship returns to Pebble Beach. “I’m trying not to get too destroyed by this golf course.
“This is not a golf course that I would pick for me in a major championship and Pebble Beach is a golf course that I would pick for me.
“I’ve got Colonial next week which is going to feel like a pitch-and-putt by comparison, then the Canadian Open. I have some great stuff ahead of me. I’m feeling a bit bruised and battered but I have to say, the game is OK and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks.”