It has been 29 years, but we have another back-to-back US Open champion. Brooks Koepka fired a final-round 68 to seal a 1-stroke victory at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday. Koepka’s win comes just one year after his first major championship title at Erin Hills. He becomes the first player to win the same major in back-to-back years since Padraig Harrington won the 2007 and 2008 Open Championships.
Brooks opened the tournament with a 75 on Thursday, but a strong 66 on Friday and a gutsy 72 on Saturday got him right back into the tournament. He started Sunday by birdieing three of the first five holes and grinded out the rest of the round to seal the victory.
Plain and simple, Brooks Koepka was the best player at Shinnecock Hills this weekend. He had the best attitude throughout Saturday’s conditions and was steadier than any player in the final hour of tee times on Sunday. His character and strategic play kept him in it while others melted around him. He led the field in strokes gained approach and was second in strokes gained putting.
Koepka now has three victories in his PGA Tour career, and two of them are U.S. Opens. 220 players have 1 major championship, and Brooks Koepka becomes the 82nd member of the 2 major club.
What You All Came For
We’ll get to the rest of Sunday’s golf in a second, but first we are going to hum a few bars about the USGA.
Due to widespread criticism, Mike Davis and team turned Shinnecock Hills into a different golf course on Sunday. It was slower, softer and safer. Eleven pins were in the middle of the green on Sunday at the U.S. Open. In short, many of the strategic elements that define the genius of Shinnecock Hills were watered down.
Did the USGA get overly aggressive on Saturday with a few pins? Probably… but they didn’t need to overreact on Sunday. A sensible reaction would have been slowing green speeds and being slightly more cautious with pin locations. Instead, they gave up. They allowed public and player opinion to dictate how they set up the golf course. Memories of 2004 probably caused them to submit to outside pressure as well.
It has become clear that the USGA is struggling with balancing their want for a complete test of golf with the mass of public opinion. Frankly, it doesn’t matter which way they go, just have the golf courses consistently play the way they were intended.
Sunday Sixty Three
The biggest storyline for the first half of the Sunday broadcast was Tommy Fleetwood. Starting the day six shots off the lead, he birdied four of his first seven holes and then finished with four more birdies on the back nine. Fleetwood had great looks for birdie on each of the last three holes to break Johnny Miller’s (and others’) long-standing record 63. Instead, he signed for the sixth 63 in US Open history and sat with the clubhouse lead for three hours. Fleetwood would ultimately come up one shot short as Brooks Koepka two-putted his way to victory.
Fleetwood’s final round is anything but surprising. The 27-year-old Englishman has played some of the best golf in the world over the last 24 months. He burst onto the scene with a victory at the 2017 Abu-Dhabi HSBC Championship and has since notched a bevy of other top-10 finishes in the best tournaments in the world, including a 4th at the 2017 US Open. He even repeated as champion in Abu-Dhabi this January.
The Fleetwood bandwagon has come and gone, but don’t be afraid to buy stock; he is going to get even better.
It looked like this was going to be a runaway victory for Dustin Johnson on Friday night, but a Saturday 77 and a Sunday 70 left him two strokes back of Koepka. DJ came crumbling down early on Saturday but still managed to hold a share of the lead on Sunday. His putting let him down in the final round, and he had to settle for 3rd place. On the back nine alone, Dustin three-putted 3 times for bogey. It seems inevitable that the world #1 gets more major titles, but he has now squandered quite a few
Captain America Falls Short
Starting the day three shots back of the leaders, Patrick Reed birdied his first three holes to get into the mix. He added birdied on 5 and 7 to tie for the lead. Vying for the first two majors of the year, Reed three-putted the 9th hole and got a little loose on the back nine. He would close in 37 and finish three shots back.
Other Sunday Notes
The final pairing of Tony Finau and Daniel Berger were understandably nervous. Finishing over three hours ahead of the leaders on Saturday, the pair found themselves shooting up the leaderboard because of the high scores Saturday afternoon. Finau ended up double-bogeying 18 on Sunday to finish 5th while Berger shot a final round 73 to tie for sixth.
The dynamic duo of Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose disappointed throughout the final round. Both of them have serious major championship pedigree but were unable to put together a Sunday charge.
After a Saturday 84, Rickie Fowler shot 19 shots better for a Sunday 65. There were actually 7 players who shot ten strokes lower on Sunday compared to Saturday.
Dylan Meyer finished T-20 in his first professional event. The former Illini graduated last month and has a strong set of sponsor exemptions for the rest of the summer. With his signature glasses and strong social media presence, he is destined to become a popular cult follow.
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