GOLF

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

He came and kicked ev­ery­one’s (be­hind) over there, didn’t he? But he’s proven for a long time how good he is. Now he’s done it in a ma­jor.”

It was only fit­ting that Koepka left Erin Hills with yet another record matched or bro­ken.

McIl­roy fin­ished at 16-un­der 268 when he won on rain-soft­ened Con­gres­sional in the 2011 U.S. Open. But the low scor­ing went much deeper than that. Only six play­ers had ever reached dou­ble dig­its un­der par in the pre­vi­ous 116 times at the U.S. Open. McIl­roy and Tiger Woods (12 un­der at Peb­ble Beach in 2000) had been the only play­ers to fin­ish there.

This week alone, nine play­ers reached at least 10 un­der and seven fin­ished there.

Xan­der Schauf­fele, a rookie on the PGA Tour play­ing in his first U.S. Open, birdied his last hole for a 69 to tie for fifth at 10-un­der 268 along with Bill Haas (69) and Rickie Fowler (72), who was poised at yet another ma­jor to win only to fall back. Fowler started one shot out of the lead at the Masters this year and shot 76. He was only two be­hind when he made the turn, but bo­geys on the 12th and 15th holes — and no birdies un­til No. 18 — ended his hopes.

Justin Thomas, com­ing off a 9-un­der 63 that matched the ma­jor cham­pi­onship scor­ing record and was the first 9-un­der round at a U.S. Open, went out in 39 and closed with a 75 to tie for ninth.

The week ended with 31 play­ers un­der par, break­ing the U.S. Open record of 28 play­ers at Me­d­i­nah in 1990. There were 133 sub-par rounds, nine more than the pre­vi­ous record in that 1990 U.S. Open.

ERIN, WIS. | Brooks Koepka trav­eled around the world to find his game. He found star­dom right at home as the U.S. Open cham­pion.

Koepka broke away from a tight pack with three straight birdies on the back nine Sun­day at Erin Hills and closed with a 5-un­der 67 to win the U.S. Open for his first ma­jor cham­pi­onship. A par on the fi­nal hole tied Rory McIl­roy’s record score to par at 16 un­der for a four-shot victory.

Not even the wind could stop the on­slaught of low scores at Erin Hills.

And noth­ing could stop Koepka. “What I’ve done this week is amaz­ing,” Koepka.

Tied for the lead with six holes to play, Koepka made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole. As Brian Har­man be­gan to fade, Koepka poured it on with birdies over the next three holes, lightly pump­ing his fist af­ter each one.

His re­ac­tion was sub­dued, just like his close friend and last year’s U.S. Open cham­pion, Dustin John­son. They spend time a lot of time to­gether on the course, in the gym and at home, so Koepka has seen that U.S. Open tro­phy plenty at John­son’s house in south Florida.

And now he gets to keep it for a year, with his name on it.

It capped quite a jour­ney for the 27-year-old Florid­ian. With­out a card on any tour when Koepka got out of Florida State, he filled his pass­port with stamps from the most un­likely out­posts in golf while play­ing the mi­nor leagues on the Euro­pean Tour — Kaza­khstan and Kenya, Por­tu­gal and In­dia and through­out Europe.

It was at the U.S. Open three years ago when Koepka tied for fourth that helped earn a PGA Tour card, and he pow­ered his way from ob­scu­rity to his first PGA Tour victory in Phoenix, his first Ry­der Cup team last fall and now a ma­jor cham­pi­onship.

Har­man’s chances ended with two straight bo­geys, and a bo­gey on the par-5 18th hole gave him a 72 and a tie for sec­ond with Hideki Mat­suyama of Ja­pan, who closed with a 66. Mat­suyama didn’t need to stick around very long. Koepka sim­ply couldn’t miss.

Koepka, who fin­ished at 16-un­der 272, be­came the sev­enth straight first-time win­ner of a ma­jor cham­pi­onship, and it was the first time since 1998-2000 that Amer­i­cans won their na­tional cham­pi­onship three straight years.

Tommy Fleet­wood, who played along­side Koepka and closed with a 72 to fin­ish fourth, played the Chal­lenge Tour a year be­fore Koepka ar­rived.

“It gives you a good ground­ing,” Fleet­wood said. “Ob­vi­ously, Brooks dealt with it amaz­ingly.

Brooks Koepka be­came the sev­enth straight first-time win­ner of a ma­jor cham­pi­onship on Sun­day.

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