FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Saturday night, asked if he had any doubts he would win the PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka quickly said, “No.”
Asked about his advantage over the field, Koepka said, “I think I’m more focussed than anybody out there. And in a major, my focus goes up 10-fold.”
Asked about sports psychologists, he said, “I don’t need a sports psychologist. I know what I’m doing. It’s simpler than guys think.”
If Koepka’s dominant play didn’t dissuade the field, his confidence might. After shooting a workmanlike even-par round on Saturday, Koepka will take a seven-shot lead into the final round, the largest 54-hole lead in PGA Championship history. No one in PGA Tour history has ever blown a seven-shot lead entering the final round.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Koepka said.
Leaderboard: Final round of PGA Championship
He also has relieved the pressure on the field. Everyone else is playing for second, which would be quite an accomplishment for someone like Jazz Janewattananond.
Janewattananond will play in the second pairing on Sunday, along with Luke List. Janewattananond is a 23-year old player from Thailand who spent two weeks as a monk and became the youngest player ever to make a cut on the Asian tour when he was 14.
He shot a 67 on Saturday as New Yorkers tried to scream his name. “One of them yelled something like, ‘Jane-whatever,’ ” Janewattananond said. “That was pretty good.”
After the 2016 season, Janewattananond spent two weeks as a Buddhist monk, replete with shaved head and orange robe. His nickname is a reference to his father’s favorite type of music.
His world ranking earned him a spot in the PGA, and he made his own arrangements and traveled alone to the United States, making a 22-hour flight. His parents decided the trip was too long.
He didn’t even bring his caddie, instead arranging for Jack Miller of Farmingdale to loop for him. Miller, 63, is a frozen foods manager and the top-ranked caddie at Bethpage Black.
Miller is the only Bethpage caddie carrying a bag this week.
“I had friends out there. I’ve got them all over the place here,” Miller told Newsday. “I told them, ‘All in for Jazz, he’s playing great, man.’ They pumped him up. He loves that stuff.”
Janewattananond visited Manhattan for the first time and was stunned.
“Kind of a wow moment,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t get over that. I didn’t feel the pressure on the golf course.”
What struck him? “The people,” he said. “And the buildings. It’s like a country jungle.”
But he heard the New York accents encouraging or teasing him. “I love it,” he said. “My first time ever getting a crowd like this, shouting my name. I don’t know how to react to it. This is my first time for the shouting. They give me some really funny names.”
New Yorkers seemed more enamored of Janewattananond than Koepka at times on Saturday. A few called him “Brooksy.” A few told him to lift more weights. Rarely did Koepka, for all of his dominance, captivate the crowd the way Tiger Woods or Jordan Spieth did at their best.
Nick Faldo, on the CBS broadcast, came up with the best nickname for him: “The Demoralizer.”
“I enjoy the confidence and what I’m playing with right now,” Koepka said.
If Koepka wins, he will be the first player in golf history to have won the last two editions of two different majors. He has won the last two U.S. Opens, and the last PGA.
He said he hasn’t tested his resting heart rate. “But if I did, it would probably not be far off what it is sitting on the couch versus the first tee or the 18th green,” he said. “It’s not far.”
Koepka has made a difficult task on a difficult course seem simple as a bench-press. While he chases history, Janewattananond will try to make a name for himself, or at least give some New Yorkers reason to pronounce it correctly.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org
Bethpage black course
leaderboard (round 3)
Brooks Koepka -12
Harold Varner III -5
Luke List -5
Dustin Johnson -5
Jazz Janewattananond -5
Sunday (final round)
(TNT) 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
(Ch. 4) 1 p.m. to finish
Uphill battle for all but one. C10