(CNN)The coronation had more spice than he would have liked, but Brooks Koepka held his nerve to seal back-to-back PGA Championship titles to confirm his status as a once-in-a-generation player.
The muscled Floridan is the first player to win his first four majors inside two years and the first in history to win two back-to-back majors concurrently after also landing consecutive US Opens in 2017 and 2018.
Koepka led by seven going into the final day and looked to be coasting to the Wanamaker Trophy before a mini meltdown — four straight bogeys — on the back nine dropped him back to just one clear of close friend and then world No.1 Johnson, the only other player in his ballpark.
Rowdier elements of the already raucous New York crowd chanted “DJ, DJ” at Koepka as they sensed late sport in the bearpit of Bethpage Black.
Memories raced back to other famous collapses, such as Jordan Spieth’s Masters misfortunes when he squandered a five-shot lead with nine to play in 2016. Or the similar Augusta agonies of Rory McIlroy or Greg Norman.
But with Koepka at his mercy, Johnson faltered at the 16th and 17th to finish six under, and though Koepka dropped a shot at the 17th he had done enough to seal a wire-to-wire victory in a record-breaking week which also took him back to the top of the world rankings.
“That was a stressful round of golf, DJ [Johnson] played awesome. I’m just glad to have this thing back in my hands,” Koepka said at the trophy presentation ceremony on the 18th green.
“I kid you not, I heard the chants, I heard everything. He did an unbelievable job putting pressure on me.
“It’s incredible, I don’t even know if I dreamed of this. This is so cool.”
Koepka revealed earlier this week he has a “number” in mind for major titles. “I don’t see why you can’t get to double digits [majors],” he told reporters. Only Walter Hagen (11), Woods (15) and Nicklaus (18) have ever won more than nine major titles in the men’s game.
But for all his explosive exploits on the golf course, Koepka treads a paradoxical line with his public image. He’s naturally reticent to be in the spotlight, and yet is riled easily when he perceives he is not getting the attention he should.
“There’s always a chip, I think every great athlete has a chip on their shoulder,” he told reporters at Bethpage. “I use it as motivation to prove people wrong.”
His deadpan demeanor on the course is a deliberate ploy to stay focused and guard against his hot-headedness as a youngster, he says. But it works against him in the public eye as fans and the media crave characters.
The young Koepka took up golf after a car accident ended his dreams of making it in baseball, basketball and other more athletic sports.
After college at Florida State, he opted against following his contemporaries through the usual qualifying school route to a professional career in the US and took up membership of Europe’s second-tier Challenge Tour in 2012.
He traveled widely, from Kenya to Kazakhstan, learning his trade, gaining life experiences and growing up. “It was the best time of my life,” he has said.
Four victories secured his European Tour card and a win in Turkey in 2014 propelled him back onto the US PGA Tour where he picked up a first title the following year.
Koepka discovered his major mojo at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills, and is now building a body of work that could serve as a blueprint for future generations.