Brooks Koepka Is New US Open Golf Champion
Written 1 year ago by Midlands Sport
American Brooks Koepka powered his way to a first major title in record-equalling fashion as Tommy Fleetwood’s brave US Open bid ended in disappointment.
Koepka carded a closing 67 at a windswept Erin Hills to finish 16 under par, matching the tournament scoring record set by Rory McIlroy at Congressional in 2011.
The big-hitting 27-year-old fired six birdies and a solitary bogey to finish four shots ahead of overnight leader Brian Harman and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, whose closing 66 will take him to second in the world rankings.
Only McIlroy and Tiger Woods had previously finished double digits under par in the game’s toughest test, while no runner-up had ever managed such a total.
Fleetwood, who had made the cut in just one of his previous seven major appearances, finished alone in fourth on 11 under following a final round of 72, with Rickie Fowler, Bill Haas and Xander Schauffele a shot further back in fifth.
Koepka, whose caddie Ricky Elliott is from Portrush in Northern Ireland, becomes the seventh first-time major winner in succession, a run stretching back to Jason Day’s victory in the 2015 US PGA Championship.
And he succeeded as US Open champion his good friend Dustin Johnson, who missed the cut at Erin Hills but gave him a pep talk on the phone after Saturday’s third round.
Koepka has been tipped for the top since winning three tournaments on the Challenge Tour in 2013 and the Turkish Airlines Open on the European Tour the following year on his way to being named rookie of the year.
In 2015 he won his maiden PGA Tour title in Phoenix and finished 10th in the Open at St Andrews and fifth in the US PGA at Whistling Straits.
Koepka was also tied for fourth in the US Open in 2014 – albeit 10 shots behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer – and shot 71 at Erin Hills in the 2011 US Amateur, although he failed to reach the matchplay stages.
Fleetwood, who was hoping to become the third English winner since 1924 after Tony Jacklin (1970) and Justin Rose (2013), began the day in a tie for second and made an encouraging start with a birdie from eight feet on the second.
However, the 26-year-old from Southport then bogeyed the sixth after hitting a poor chip across the green and dropped another shot on the eighth after firing his approach over the green.
“Just getting it wrong, aren’t we,” he said to his caddie Ian Finnis, who has been a major part of Fleetwood’s revival after slipping to 188th in the world last September.
Fleetwood, who had also returned to his long-time coach Alan Thompson after an unsuccessful spell with Pete Cowen, bounced back in style with a superb approach to the ninth, a green labelled “a little iffy” by 2015 champion Jordan Spieth after his closing 69.
The resulting birdie reduced his deficit to playing partner Koepka to four shots, Koepka having followed birdies on the first and second with another from 35 feet on the eighth.
Koepka’s three-putt bogey on the 10th gave the chasing pack renewed hope, but Fleetwood was unable to convert birdie chances from six feet on the 11th or twice the distance on the next.
Harman had been tied with Koepka after his birdie putt on the third did a full circuit of the hole before dropping in, but found heavy rough off the tee on the 12th to make only his third bogey of the week.
A three-putt bogey from Harman on the 13th left clubhouse leader Matsuyama as Koepka’s nearest challenger, but the American promptly got up and down from a bunker on the 14th and holed from 12 feet for another birdie on the next.
And when he completed his hat-trick from 16 feet on the 16th, all that was left to decide was whether he would equal or break McIlroy’s record.
Image – Richard Heathcote/Getty Images North America