JEJU ISLAND, South Korea (AP) – Brooks Koepka is golf’s new No. 1 after winning the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges on Sunday by four strokes.
Koepka, who displaced Dustin Johnson for the world’s top ranking, shot a final-round 8-under 64 for a 21-under total of 267. Koepka, who had never held the top ranking, led by four strokes after three rounds.
“To be No. 1 is something I’ve dreamed of as a kid,” Koepka said. “I don’t think this one is going to sink in.”
Gary Woodland certainly made it interesting. Woodland started the day five strokes behind Koepka, who was only 1-under after nine, but Woodland pulled level after making six birdies in seven holes on the front nine.
The two dueled on the back nine, with Woodland birdieing 15 and 16 to again pull level. But 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.
The biggest moment came on the 16th. Koepka went from a fairway bunker to just left of the green, about 70 feet away. Koepka hit a chip-and-run that was stopped by the pin and dropped for the birdie.
Koepka finished in style with a 25-foot eagle putt on 18 for a 29 on the back nine.
“I’m not somebody who’s going to panic if things go the wrong way,” Koepka said of his slow start. “I felt like the one at 15 was quite big with Gary making a charge.”
Woodland finished second after a 63. Ryan Palmer birdied his last seven holes to shoot 62 and finish in a tie for third place with Rafa Cabrera Bello (65), four strokes behind Koepka.
Defending champion Justin Thomas, who could have prevented Koepka from moving to No. 1 with a repeat win, finished at 5-under after a 68 Sunday.
Koepka is the third player this year to reach No. 1 for the first time, joining Justin Rose and Thomas. The last time that happened was in 1997, when Ernie Els, Tom Lehman and Tiger Woods each rose to No. 1.
It was Koepka’s 12th victory worldwide, including four wins on the European Challenge Tour. He now has won in six countries – the U.S., South Korea, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Scotland.
“Everything I’ve done this year it’s been working. So I don’t want to change anything,” Koepka said. “Just keep improving.
“I’m so excited right now, you have no idea. I can’t wait to go play again.”
He’ll get his chance next week when the PGA Tour heads to Shanghai for the final stop on its Asian swing, the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions.
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