TEEBOX

Wins de­spite fly­ing un­der the radar at Shin­necock Hills

Golf Asia - - CONTENTS - BY RE­BECCA BRYAN IM­AGES © ROLEX/CHRIS TURVEY

Koepka Wins Sec­ond Straight US Open The 30th BMW In­ter­na­tional Open

Brooks Koepka be­came the first player in three decades to re­peat as US Open Cham­pion, fir­ing a gritty fi­nal round 68 at Shin­necock Hills to beat Tommy Fleet­wood by one stroke. A year af­ter he marched to vic­tory with a 16-un­der to­tal at Erin Hills, Koepka kept his nerve on the back nine to emerge with a one-over-par to­tal of 281. Af­ter four grind­ing days at Shin­necock Hills, which first hosted a US Open in the 19th cen­tury, it was Koepka who topped the leader­board with a one-over par to­tal. Tiger Woods and Rory Mcil­roy were long gone by then, miss­ing the half­way cut.

Dustin John­son, mas­ter­ful in build­ing a four-stroke lead through 36 holes, came back to the field dur­ing the bru­tal third round, when Mick­el­son un­der­scored his ir­rel­e­vance with a silly rules in­frac­tion. As Koepka emerged from a tightly bunched field on Sun­day, John­son sim­ply couldn't keep pace. Even Tommy Fleet­wood with a stun­ning

63 couldn't run Koepka down.

"I don't want to say I didn't think I could do it, but I knew that it was go­ing to be that much more dif­fi­cult," Koepka said of win­ning a sec­ond ma­jor. "To go back to back, I re­ally can't even put it into words. We grinded our tail off this week to come back from seven-over and do what we did. It was pretty spe­cial."

The world num­ber nine is the sev­enth

player to win back-to-back US Open crowns, and the first since Cur­tis Strange in 1988-89. Af­ter over­pow­er­ing the wide-open Erin Hills, he kept his nerve through four bru­tal days at Shin­necock. "It's much more grat­i­fy­ing the sec­ond time," said Koepka, who had bat­tled a par­tially torn wrist ten­don that side-lined him nearly four months since his ma­jor break­through last year. "I don't think I could have dreamed of this."

A day af­ter scores soared on the dried out greens, the US Golf As­so­ci­a­tion ad­mit­ted the course got out of hand, adding plenty of mois­ture and some slightly more for­giv­ing pins. Eng­land's 12th-ranked Fleet­wood seized the op­por­tu­nity to match the low­est round ever in the US Open with a bril­liant sev­e­nun­der 63 for a two-over to­tal of 282.

Fleet­wood had stormed into the club­house with a round that in­cluded eight birdies, putting the pres­sure on overnight lead­ers Koepka, Dustin John­son, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau. Only Koepka met the chal­lenge. He had bro­ken out of the pack with three birdies in the first five holes. Play­ing in fresh­en­ing wind and know­ing that Fleet­wood was in the club­house on

two-over Koepka pro­duced a string of clutch putts on the back nine.

A six-foot birdie at the 10th gave him a two-stroke lead. A tough 12-footer limited the dam­age at 11 to what he called "a great bo­gey" af­ter he hit over the green into deep rough and from there into a bunker.

He got up and down for par at the 12th and es­caped with a par from deep rough at 14 be­fore giv­ing him­self some breath­ing room with a birdie at the parfive 16th -- where he stuck his third shot less than four feet from the pin.

"I felt like I made those clutch eight- to 10-foot­ers that you need to keep the

mo­men­tum go­ing," Koepka said. "We didn't drive it that great, but you can make up so much with a hot put­ter and that's kind of what I was do­ing."

By the time Koepka's ap­proach at 18 hit a grand­stand and bounced off, a clos­ing bo­gey was aca­demic.

'Great day' for Fleet­wood

Fleet­wood could only watch it all un­fold. But af­ter nearly equalling the best ever round in a ma­jor of 62 he was pleased with his day's work.

"Watch­ing them down the stretch, you've got noth­ing but re­spect for how well Brooks did, just to hole the putts at the right time," said Fleet­wood, who could only watch and wait. "He kept it to­gether. he's a world player. It wasn't great for me, but it was great as a golfer to watch how he did it and watch how he closed it out."

It was the first time since 2013 at Me­rion that no one broke par in the US Open, and of the four overnight lead­ers, Koepka was the only player to shoot an un­der par fi­nal round. World num­ber one John­son, play­ing along­side Koepka in the penul­ti­mate group, saw the sure putting touch that had pro­pelled him to a four-shot half­way lead desert him. He birdied the 72nd for an even par 70 that left him alone in third on 283.

Finau, play­ing in the fi­nal group with Berger, closed with a dou­ble bo­gey at the 72nd hole for a 72 that left him fifth on 285 -- one stroke be­hind Masters cham­pion Patrick Reed. Reed fired five birdies in the first seven holes but cooled off com­ing in for a two-un­der 68. Berger faded early, his 73 leav­ing him tied for sixth at six-over with Eng­land's Tyrrell Hat­ton, Amer­i­can Xan­der Schauf­fele and Swe­den's Hen­rik Sten­son.

Brooks Koepka with the US Open tro­phy

Fans watch from the hole 10 stands dur­ing the 3rd round

Daniel Berger on the 1st tee

The Rolex clock ad­ja­cent to the club­house

Brooks Koepka plays his third shot on his fi­nal hole

Tiger Woods plays from the thick rough on the 14th hole

The Rolex clock along­side the 9th fair­way

Hideki Mat­suyama on the 1st tee

Phil Mick­el­son and Jor­dan Spi­eth share a joke as they walk to the 15th green

Li Hao­tong on the 1st tee

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