| 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

HK Golfer - - Contents - By Louie Chan

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

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