SEOUL (Reuters) - Brooks Koepka will become world number one for the first time on Monday after the American fended off a game Gary Woodland to earn a four-stroke victory at the PGA Tour’s CJ Cup in South Korea.
Koepka posted a final round of 64 at the Nine Bridges Golf Club on Jeju island on Sunday, finishing with a flourish by eagling the last hole for a combined 21-under 267 at the $9.5 million tournament.
The 28-year-old, who won two of this year’s four majors and was named the U.S. tour’s Player of the Year, will move up from third spot to replace Dustin Johnson as number one when the latest rankings are released.
Johnson and world number two Justin Rose were not playing this week.
Koepka said his rise to become the top ranked player in men’s golf was the stuff dreams are made of.
“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 number one in the world,” he said.
“The world number one is something I dreamed of as a kid and I don’t think this one’s going to sink in.”
Woodland (63) gave Koepka a run for his money, closing the gap with six birdies on the front nine, but his charge faltered with a bogey on 17 and he finished alone in second on 17-under.
Ryan Palmer looked well out of contention heading into the final round but a course record 10-under 62, which included seven straight birdies to finish, gave him the clubhouse lead on 15-under before Woodland and Koepka came home.
Palmer finished tied for third with Spaniard Rafa Cabrera Bello (65).
Koepka, whose win came on his first start of the new PGA Tour season after he skipped the opening two events, showed both sides of his game on Sunday, hammering out thunderous drives and exhibiting deft touch around the greens.
With Woodland trailing by just a shot, Koepka looked to be struggling to make par on 16 when he found himself in tangly rough from off the green.
However, he produced a delightful chip that disappeared straight into the cup, and when Woodland dropped a shot at the par-three 17th Koepka was virtually home and dry.
“I just hung in there,” Koepka added. “I’m not somebody that’s going to panic if things go the wrong way, pretty sure everybody can tell that.”
The victory and number one ranking has come at just the right time for Koepka, who was part of the U.S. team beaten handily by Europe at the Ryder Cup last month.
Koepka was also left ‘heartbroken’ after learning that one of his tee shots at the event in Paris had struck a spectator and reportedly left her blinded in one eye.
Reporting by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly and Martyn Herman