| 2018 U.S. Open Championship Review
The U.S. Open finally has another repeat champion. Brooks Koepka, who won last year at Erin Hills, finished 17 strokes higher at Shinnecock Hills. But a final-round 68 on Sunday was good enough for a one-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood, writes Louie C
A final-round 68 on Sunday was good enough for Brooks Koepka to win his back to back U.S. Open title.
Brooks Koepka is the first player to successfully defend his crown since Curtis Strange 29 years ago (1988-89). For only the third time in the post-World War II era – and seventh time in 118 stagings – the U.S. Open has a repeat champion. World No. 1 and 2016 champion Dustin Johnson, who along with Koepka was one of four players who started the final round tied for the lead at 3 over par, mustered an even-par 70 playing alongside his good friend Koepka to finish third at 3-over 283. Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed made an early run with a first-nine 31 but came home in 37 to finish fourth at 284. Tony Finau followed up Saturday’s 66 with a 2-over 72 for a fifth-place showing, four behind Koepka.
A day after an extremely challenging setup humbled most of the 67 players who survived the 36-hole cut; the USGA set up the iconic William Flynn design a bit more conservatively. The result: the scoring average dipped a little more than three strokes, from 75.33 to 72.18.
Tommy Fleetwood started his final round more than 2 hours before the final pairing
of Finau and Daniel Berger teed off. On a day when he converted eight birdie putts totalling 161 feet, his 63 was the sixth in U.S. Open history and just the second in a final round. Johnny Miller famously posted that score 45 years ago at Oakmont Country Club to complete a six-stroke rally for the title.
When Fleetwood posted his score, Koepka and the rest of Sunday’s contenders still had nine holes left. Shinnecock’s inward nine had not treated the former Florida State University All-American kindly over the first three rounds. Koepka was 6 over par, with just three birdies. And at the par-3 11th, he could have easily lost control of the steering wheel. Converting a 13-footer for bogey portended a stretch of clutch putts. He made a 6-footer for par on 12th, and after hacking out of deep rough on the par-4 14th hole, he got up and down from 62 yards out, holing an 8½-footer for par to maintain his onestroke edge.
The coup de grâce was the 16th hole, a par5 that none of the other players who finished in the top 10 managed to birdie, including Fleetwood. Koepka stuffed his wedge approach from 122 yards to 4 feet, which he converted for a two-stroke lead. Even a 72nd-hole bogey couldn’t prevent him from hoisting the trophy.
‘It’s a fun week,’ said Koepka. ‘I enjoy the test. I enjoy being pushed to the limit. Sometimes you feel like you are about to break mentally, but that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy hard golf courses. I enjoy playing about the toughest in golf you are ever going to play.’
Fleetwood got almost everything right on Sunday in the final round, including what he needed to win it. The Englishman equalled the championship record with a closing 7-under-par 63, and while he was reminded that he was only the second man to finish with that score in the final round of the U.S. Open, he quickly noted, ‘Yeah, but I wanted to shoot 62.’
Of course, a 62 would have set the U.S. Open record. It also would have tied the major championship scoring record Branden Grace set last year in the final round of the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
But most importantly, it would have earned him a tie with eventual winner Brooks Koepka. Instead, he had to settle for a solo second place, as he completed 72 holes in 2-over 282.
Building on his T-4 finish last year at Erin Hills, Fleetwood played an impeccable round that featured eight birdies – including four in a row starting on the 12th hole – against one
bogey. He hit 13 fairways and 16 greens in regulation. And he gave himself great birdie looks on the final three holes, only to see his putter go cold at the wrong time.
He missed from 13 feet on 16th and 19 feet on 17th. But the putt he wants back is the 8-footer on 18th after a clutch 6-iron approach from 196 yards left him a putt almost straight up the slope. But it wasn’t straight, however. The putt veered right at the very end, inches from history.
‘I wanted more for the 62 at the time. That was the putt that will play on your mind because that’s the last shot you hit. Your score is your score.
‘Getting that close to winning a major again is what I’ll take from it.’
Brooks Koepka poses with the trophy after winning the 2018 U.S. Open
Dustin Johnson reacts to a shot on the 15th hole during the final round of the U.S. Open
Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed finished fourth
Tony Finau followed up Saturday’s 66 with a 2-over 72 for a fifthplace showing
Brooks Koepka kisses his girlfriend after winningthe 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
Tommy Fleetwood hitting on the 16th fairway during the final round of the U.S. Open
Fleetwood waves to the crowd on the 18th green during the final round of the U.S. Open