Koepka wins CJ Cup to top world rankings as Sharma slips up

CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges winner Brooks Koepka during the final round in Jeju, South Korea. on Sunday. Image courtesy PGA Tour.

By Rahul Banerji 

Brooks Koepka ran away from the field to post his maiden CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges victory and also crown himself world number one at Jeju Island in South Korea on Sunday,

Indian hopes took a hit as Shubhankar Shatrma could not reproduce his sublime third round form to card a modest 74 and finish in a tie for 55th place.

Sharma had four birdies, four bogeys and an eagle as he totaled 1-under 287.

His third round 64 had seen him rise to T-26 and raised hopes of a second successive Top-10 after the CIMB Classic a week earlier.

Spotlight

However, the spotlight was all for Koepka who closed out the tournament as well as his opponents with an 18th hole eagle to win by a handsome four shots.

The three-time major champion and 2018 PGA Tour player of the year totalled 21-under 267 for his four rounds. Koepka’s final nine holes took just 29 shots,

Koepka also took over from Dustin Johnson as no. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings for the first time in his career.

The big-hitting American has now won three of his last 11 PGA Tour starts.

Gary Woodland though did not make it easy for his compatriot.

Tough fight

Starting the day five strokes behind, Woodland caught Koepka with six birdies in seven holes on his front nine.

File photo of Gary Woodland who gave Brooks Koepka a solid fight for much of the way on Sunday. Image courtesy PGA Tour.

Koepka pulled away again only to see Woodland hit two more birdies to pull level once more.

Koepka did the same, and a bogey by Woodland on the par-3 17th gave Koepka the cushion he needed to close out the win despite a birdie on the 18th by Woodland.

Woodland was second with a 63, while Ryan Palmer birdied his last seven holes to set the course record with a 10-under 62.

He was to finish in a tie for third with Rafa Cabrera Bello (65), four strokes behind Koepka.

Defending champion Justin Thomas was 5-under after a 68 on Sunday.

Worldwide winner

It was Koepka’s 12th victory worldwide, including four wins on the European Challenge Tour.

He now has won in seven countries – the USA, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Japan, Turkey and Scotland.

CIMB Classic winner Marc Leishman moved atop the FedExCup standings with a T18 finish after closing with a 6-under 66.

“It was amazing to grind out today,” Koepka said later. “I didn’t get off to the best start, Gary (Woodland) played a hell of a round.

“To play that back nine as well as I did, I didn’t even know I shot 29, but that’s pretty cool. It’s unbelievable.

“I look at where I started, my first pro start was in Switzerland and I don’t think I could have said six years later that I would be no. 1 in the world.

‘Cool feeling’

“It’s a cool feeling. I can’t wait to come back next year, this golf course is fantastic. It’s so much fun to, play. It really challenged you. I just hung in there, waited for my holes.

“I know I’m going to have some good looks and when I do, you’ve got to capitalise on them.

“I felt like the one on 15 was big at the time with Gary making the charge and playing as well as he did, but it was fun.”

Added Woodland, “I played solid all week. Thursday was tough, but the last couple days I really had it going.

“Yesterday I just didn’t get any putts to go in and today I saw a lot of putts go in.

“Brooks with the lead, not much fazes him, so you knew you had to make a lot of birdies and I made lot today, but I was just too far behind.

“I was trying to put as much pressure as I could, but just shows I was too far back to start. I gave myself a chance, I was tied for the lead there.

“Brooks made some clutch shots down the stretch. I made two bogeys on the back and I said “be right” on both shots. I was just maybe a little too amped up, a little excited,”

Read also: Fun and a game on the Delhi Golf Club’s Peacock course

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