Brooks Koepka wins U.S. Open

Koepka makes quite a name for him­self, ty­ing Open’s un­der-par scor­ing record

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By John Cherwa

Record-ty­ing vic­tory is 27-year-old’s first ma­jor ti­tle.

ERIN, Wis. — Brooks Koepka had just tapped in a 20-inch putt to be­come the 117th U.S. Open cham­pion, and he gave it the cliched low-grade golf fist pump. Twice. That was it.

The cel­e­bra­tion was about as muted as you’ll ever see from some­one who just won his first ma­jor. His per­for­mance was any­thing but.

It capped a week when the big­gest names van­ished af­ter two rounds, leav­ing on the leader­board a col­lec­tion of rarely seen names. And, boy, there were a lot of names.

But in the end, a four­hole stretch of par and three birdies made Koepka a house­hold name. This U.S. Open wasn’t lost, it was won by a 27-year-old Florida na­tive who had only won one other PGA Tour tour­na­ment.

“That’s prob­a­bly one of the coolest things I’ve ever ex­pe­ri­enced and to do it on Fa­ther’s Day, it’s pretty neat,” Koepka said. “I didn’t ex­actly get my dad a card, so this works.”

Koepka shot a 67 on his win­ning round. He had six birdies and one bo­gey in an ex­hi­bi­tion of steady play. He shot un­der par in all four rounds at Erin Hills.

The mar­gin of vic­tory was four strokes and the win­ning to­tal was 16 un­der, equal­ing the low­est score in re­la­tion to par in U.S. Open his­tory. Hideki Mat­suyama, who shot a siz­zling 66, and Brian Har­man, the thir­dround leader, were at 12 un­der. Tommy Fleet­wood was at 11 un­der and Xan­der Schauf­fele, Bill Haas and Rickie Fowler were one more stroke back.

Koepka was mostly un­known to the ca­sual golf watcher but his ath­letic build and solid form have made him a fa­vorite of those look­ing for the next star of their fan­tasy golf league. Pri-

or to Sun­day, his only PGA Tour vic­tory was in 2015 at Phoenix. But he’s been close a lot.

His pre­vi­ous best U.S. Open fin­ish was a tie for fourth in 2014.

If you live in Jupiter, Fla., and you were tak­ing one of those child­hood tests to fig­ure out which item doesn’t be­long, Koepka would have been that odd item out when talk­ing about the com­mu­nity’s pro golfer pop­u­la­tion.

The city is home to 2016 U.S. Open cham­pion Dustin John­son, four-time ma­jor win­ner Rory McIl­roy, 2014 Open run­ner-up Fowler and, of course, Tiger Woods. Koepka and John­son even train and hang out to­gether. Now he truly be­longs.

John­son, who didn’t make the cut, called Koepka on Satur­day night.

“It was a long phone call,” Koepka said, with a hint of face­tious­ness. “It was like two min­utes, it wasn’t much. But he just said a few things, to just stay pa­tient. And I’ll win if I stay pa­tient and just keep do­ing what I’m do­ing.”

The stretch dur­ing which Koepka won this tour­na­ment started on the 13th hole Sun­day. He was tied with Har­man. His tee shot on the par three ended up rolling off the green and down a slope. He had about 78 feet, mostly up­hill, to reach the pin. He put his sec­ond shot within about nine feet. He made the putt.

“That par save was mas­sive on 13,” Koepka said. “That’s the rea­son I had so much con­fi­dence com­ing down, es­pe­cially with the par five com­ing up, know­ing that I needed to birdie that.”

Koepka got in trou­ble again on the par-five 14th when he put his sec­ond shot in a bunker. But a bril­liant sand shot put the ball to about four feet for birdie. He made the putt.

“Leav­ing that in the bunker wasn’t that bad,” he said. “Any­where over there was fine.”

Ac­tu­ally, all he prob­a­bly had to do to win the tour­na­ment was par out. He had a two-shot lead over Mat­suyama, who was in the club­house.

But on No. 15, which was the tough­est-play­ing hole on the course Sun­day, he put his ap­proach about 10 feet away for a birdie at­tempt. He made the putt.

And on No. 16, a par three, he put his tee shot 17 feet away for a chance at his third birdie in a row. He made the putt.

He had a four-shot lead with two holes to play. He parred them both.

“I played re­ally solid from the mo­ment we got here on Mon­day and all the way through [Sun­day],” Koepka said. “The ball-strik­ing was pretty solid. It had to be, es­pe­cially with the wind. And I got out there with the put­ter a lit­tle bit [Sun­day] and all week. So all around my game is pretty solid and I couldn’t be hap­pier.”

Har­man, who was play­ing in the fi­nal group just behind Koepka, had lost all his en­ergy as he ap­proached the 18th hole, where a par would have given him sole pos­ses­sion of sec­ond place. He bo­geyed the hole.

“It bites a lit­tle bit right now,” Har­man said. “But Brooks played so well to­day. The con­di­tions were so tough. So you’re in the nextto-last group and you shoot the [sec­ond-] low­est round of the day, that’s tough, that’s tough.”

Mat­suyama had the round of the day, a six-un­der 66. He had eight birdies and two bo­geys.

“We watched the fin­ish in the club­house on TV,” Mat­suyama said. “Brooks is a good friend of ours and we’re happy for him. Wish him well and con­grat­u­late him. I’ll try and beat him next time.”

The U.S. Open re­turns to one of its more tra­di­tional (read: dif­fi­cult) cour­ses next year when it goes back to Shin­necock Hills in the Hamp­tons.

Koepka won’t be anonymous. There will be ex­pec­ta­tions. But his re­sume will be look­ing a whole lot bet­ter than this year.

‘To do it on Fa­ther’s Day, it’s pretty neat. I didn’t ex­actly get my dad a card, so this works.’ —Brooks Koepka, on his U.S. Open tri­umph

An­drew Redington Getty Images

A 72-HOLE TO­TAL of 16-un­der 272 earned Brooks Koepka a four-shot vic­tory, his first ma­jor ti­tle and a piece of tour­na­ment record.

Tan­nen Maury Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

THE ROUND of the day was Hideki Mat­suyama’s 66, but all it got him was a share of sec­ond.

Char­lie Riedel As­so­ci­ated Press

COM­ING OFF a “mas­sive” par save at No. 13, Brooks Koepka hits out of a bunker to set up a birdie at 14.

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