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, with Fleetwood a shot further back following a final round of 72.
Koepka’s big hitting gets plenty of attention, but playing partner Fleetwood nominated his approach to the 15th – which played as the hardest hole – as his best shot of the final round.
From 150 yards, Koepka judged his approach perfectly to a pin cut just four yards from the back right edge of the green and rolled in the birdie putt.
Matsuyama’s 66 was the lowest score, but Koepka’s 67 was even more impressive as he compiled it under the pressure of leading or sharing the lead since he birdied the second.
After a brief stumble on the 10th, a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th sealed the win in style in testing conditions.
“This will make up for the card I didn’t get him.” Koepka takes the cheap way out on Father’s Day.
No runner-up had finished double digits under par in the US Open, but as well as Matsuyama and Harman sharing second place on 12 under, Fleetwood finished 11 under and Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele and Bill Haas were 10 under.
The 15th had played as the easiest hole in round three after the tee was brought forward to make it reachable, but at 356 yards and back into the wind on Sunday there were just six birdies, 18 bogeys, five doubles and four triples. That resulted in a scoring average of 4.515.
Proving yet again that distance is no defence against the best players in the world and modern equipment, the 681-yard 18th was the easiest hole in the final round, with two eagles, 19 birdies and just 10 bogeys for a scoring average of 4.809.
Brooks Koepka only hit 3-wood 379 yards on 18. Must've left the headcover on.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) June 18, 2017
Brooks Koepka’s bank balance as he claimed a record first prize of £1.66million. Not bad for a man who once won £30,000 in the Scottish Hydro Challenge at Aviemore.
Justin Thomas came into the final round on the back of his record 63 on Saturday, but was never in contention after bogeys at three of the first five holes on his way to a disappointing 75.
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Who will reign at Erin Hills this weekend?
World Ranking: 1
After his breakthrough US Open win, the big-hitting American seemed poised to take a stranglehold on the men’s game this season after scoring three PGA Tour victories and two top-10 finishes. A freak back injury on the eve of the opening round of the Masters derailed his progress and he will be keen to get back to his winning ways on the longest major championship course in history.
World Ranking: 5
Last 5 tournaments: T13-T2-MC-MC-T11
Best US Open finish: Winner (2015)
Last 5 US Opens: T37-W-T17-MC-T21-T11
Spieth became the youngest US Open winner in 92 years at Chambers Bay in 2015, just two months after claiming the Masters. However, he could not replicate his form last year, even though he came close to retaining his Masters crown before that 12th hole meltdown on Sunday. Has been solid again in 2017, and two recent missed cuts shouldn’t matter much when he regains his focus in a major.
World Ranking: 2
Last 5 tournaments: T35-T7-T30-T4-T7
Best US Open finish: Winner (2011)
Last 5 US Opens: MC-T9-T23-T41-MC
The 28-year-old’s preparations for Erin Hills have been interrupted by niggling rib and back injuries which have curtailed his appearances on the tour. McIlroy however is looking forward to returning to the Open, which was the scene of his first major championship triumph in 2011. What’s more important is that he seems to have loved the challenge that Erin Hills offers during his prep visit.
World Ranking: 9
Last 5 tournaments: MC-T2-T60-T11-T3
Best US Open finish: T2 (2014)
Last 5 US Opens: MC-MC-T2-T10-T41
One of the most consistent performers in 2017 along with Johnson and Jon Rahm. Won the Honda Classic and was second at The Memorial. Missed the cut at FedEx St Jude Classic last week, which would have been a good thing as it gives him some extra rest in a three-week stretch. Very solid off the tee, Fowler is excellent on the greens – a mix that could win him his maiden major.
World Ranking: 11
Last 5 tournaments: T12-T65-2-T15-T13
Best US Open finish: Winner (2013)
Last 5 US Opens: MC-T27-T12-W-T21
The 36-year-old seems to have the uncanny knack of bringing his best game to major championships. Runner-up earlier this year at the Masters, where he lost a play-off to Sergio Garcia, Rose is more than likely to be in contention. He missed the cut at Oakmont last year, but his immense patience and his strong overall game makes him an enticing proposition on this golf course.
There are plenty of reasons why the spotlight will be trained intensely on Dustin Johnson when the US Open, the second major of the year, gets underway at Erin Hills on Thursday.
After all, the American is ranked No1 in the world, is the defending champion, is hungry after missing the Masters with a freak injury, and is in a happy frame of mind after welcoming his second child to the world on Monday.
And while he may have missed the cut in his last outing at The Memorial, let that not overshadow what has been a stunning year for the 32-year-old – one that has already seen him holding aloft the trophy three times on the PGA Tour, including in both the WGC events so far.
It is not just his current form that is red-hot, so is his performances at the US Open. In the past three years, the tournament visited three very different golf courses – the legendary Pinehurst No2 (2014), the much-maligned Chambers Bay (2015) and the demanding Oakmont.
In those three tournaments, Johnson finished tied fourth and tied second before his maiden major last year. So, even though Erin Hills is a big mystery for most players – considering it is not even a decade old and making its championship debut – there is no reason why Johnson should be fazed.
Good golf is going to get you good results, regardless of the golf course you are playing. However, the set-up at Erin Hills should also play straight into Johnson’s hands. It is a massive piece of real estate, stretching over 7,741 yards from the opening tee shot to the 18th green.
That makes it the longest golf course ever used in a major championship, 46 yards more than Chambers Bay. It has a par of 72 and four par-5s. Even the much talked about fescue grass is separated by nearly 60 yards of fairway. For someone who is driving the ball as phenomenally as Johnson, all this is fodder for low score.
Johnson, obviously, isn’t the only interesting storyline going into Thursday’s opening round. There’s always Phil Mickelson, who has the uncanny knack of adding drama to every US Open he plays. The popular American, who celebrates his birthday during the tournament week, has always been a big talking point at the tournament, especially because of his failure to win it despite finishing runner-up six times.
A win now would complete his grand slam and also make him the third oldest ever winner of a major championship. But that is possible only if Mickelson shows up for his tee time. The five-time major winner has everyone on the tenterhooks, having decided to attend the graduation ceremony of his daughter on Thursday.
He hasn’t pulled out of the tournament either, hoping that the thunderstorms predicted in the region would delay his tee time by four hours, enough for him to make a dash back from California in his private jet. So, the fans really won’t have to wait for the 72nd hole on Sunday for a thriller to unfold. There is one waiting to take place on the first tee itself on Thursday.
Then there is Rory McIlroy, coming back to competitive golf after another injury break. If his ribs are all right, he is another player who has the power and the finesse to bring Erin Hills to its knees. In fact, given how much rain the course has experienced over the last few days, long-hitters will have an advantage if they can keep it to the fairways.
That should also bring someone like Jason Day into focus. The Aussie has lost his world No1 ranking, partly because of his own personal issues with his mother’s llness, and partly because of Johnson’s brilliance, and he’d be eager to get back into the winner’s circle.
Young Jon Rahm is also getting a lot of attention, which is not surprising given how he has been performing in his first full season as a professional. The strongly-built Spaniard plays golf in the Johnson style, and he must be so motivated after watching compatriot Sergio Garcia win at Augusta National.
The odd man out is Jordan Spieth, who makes the list of favourites because of his strong short game. If the Texan gets his flat club warmed up, he’d definitely not need all the muscle power from the tee to win his second US Open title.