Strong winds rolled in and Erin Hills delivered much anticipated high scores. Brooks Koepka continued his flawless play hitting 17/18 greens shooting a final-round 67 and winning the U.S. Open. Koepka continually bludgeoned his driver, rarely missing Erin Hills wide fairways and leaving short iron approaches, while his competitors played mid-irons in. Over the week, this led to more birdie opportunities, which he regularly cashed in, ultimately tying Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open scoring record at 16-under.
What it means
Erin Hills proved to be a fair test which allowed for numerous styles of play, and in the end, the ultra-talented young bomber came away with the title. At 27, Koepka had flashed major championship game having notched top 5’s in the 2014 U.S. Open, 2015 and 2016 PGA Championship as well as a top 10 at the 2015 Open Championship. Koepka adds the U.S. Open to his growing resume which includes a PGA Tour title, a European Tour title and a 3-1 record during the 2016 Ryder Cup. With his ability to overpower a golf course and the fact that he led the U.S. Open in greens in regulation, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Koepka lift a few more major championships in his career.
Another close call
The only player that was better than Koepka on Sunday was Hideki Matsuyama who closed with a 6-under 66 to finish in a tie for second with 54-hole leader Brian Harman. After an opening 2-over par 74, Matsuyama rattled off rounds of 65-71-66 to secure his highest finish in a major championship and his third top 5...seems like he might be the next first time winner.
Close but no cigar
For much of the day, it looked as though Brian Harman and Koepka would be heading towards a thrilling finish, but as Koepka surged with birdies on 13, 14 and 15, Harman faltered making bogeys on 12 and 13. Harman was so solid all week, and his runner-up finish was certainly caused by Koepka beating him rather than him losing the title. It was the first time that Harman had ever been in major contention but he proved to be ready for the moment and unfazed by the pressure. It will be interesting to see if Harman contends again on a major stage, but with a win at this year’s Wells Fargo, it seems the 31-year-old is becoming the player many thought he would be when he became the youngest Walker Cup player ever.
With a leaderboard filled with majorless players, many expected Rickie Fowler or Justin Thomas to rise to the occasion and win his long-awaited first major. Fowler looked to be getting in position to make a run on the back 9 after an opening one-under par 35. Instead he stalled to an even par 72 and a tie for 5th, his sixth major top 5 of his career. Thomas was out of it quickly, playing in the final group of a major for the first time in his young career and attempting to back up a record breaking 63, a tall task for the budding superstar. While each fell short, they gained invaluable experience that should help them the next time they get in contention. Hopefully, at the Open or PGA Championships.
There were some pleasant surprises at this week’s U.S. Open. None bigger than Xander Schauffele who capped off a fantastic week with a closing 69 to grab a share of 5th place. Schauffele barely missed out on a spot in this year’s Masters which goes to the top four places in the U.S. Open but greatly enhanced his status moving from 135th to 107th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Another rookie who had a standout week was former Alabama star Trey Mullinax, who shot a final round 68 to finish in a tie for 9th. Mullinax’s round came despite a four putt on the 15th, and looking at the week as a whole is one of the more impressive players from tee to green, ranking 2nd in greens in regulation and 5th in driving distance. With his top ten, Mullinax earned a place in next year’s field as well as moving from 139th to 124th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Scottie Scheffler used a final round 73 to finish at one-under par and earn low-amateur honors over Cameron Champ who finished at even. While neither had the weekend they had hoped for, each proved that the margin between college’s best and the PGA Tour is shrinking. Look for each of these players to make their way into the professional game after one more year of college.
DJ Piehowski and Brendan Porath join the pod to rehash the 2017 U.S. Open. We discuss Brooks Koepka's win and his future major championship prospects, JT and Rickie, who impressed and Erin Hills. Listen on our website, iTunes or Stitcher.
On the Web
It was quite the week on the Web Tour as 20-year-old phenom Aaron Wise captured the Air Capital Classic by five shots over former Texas star Beau Hossler. Wise turned professional after winning the 2016 NCAA Individual title as a Sophomore and it's taken him little time to ascend moving from the Canadian Tour to the Web Tour and now is almost assured a spot on the PGA Tour. The week was also big for 2016 Haskins Award winner Beau Hossler who Monday qualified for the event and was playing without status on any major tour. The runner-up finish moved him to 32nd on the money list, assured him starts for the rest of the season and a great chance at making it into the top 25 and onto the PGA Tour for the 2017-2018 season.
In case you missed it, I wrote a couple of pieces on Erin Hills. One on the 10th hole and the other on how any type of player could contend at the first time venue.
Brooke Henderson wins for the fourth time on the LPGA.