World number two Justin Thomas insists he is at the French Open to win the tournament not scout Le Golf National for September’s Ryder Cup.
The US PGA Champion said his first appearance at the event in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, just outside Paris, was for personal and team gain.
“It obviously has some additional intent to it with the Ryder Cup, but it just worked out in the schedule for me to come here,” the American told a press conference.
“I wanted to play against a great field and it looks like we’re going to.
“It’s an opportunity for world rankings points and there are so many positives: an opportunity to come to Paris, visit Versaille and I didn’t want to take three weeks off before a major.
“It’s a big deal on the European Tour and I’m happy you are letting me come over here and crash the party.
“It would mean more to me winning a European Tour event because it’s something I’ve never done.
“It would help deep inside of me (for the Ryder Cup), but it is so far away and (the course) will be playing so different.
“It would be a tremendous honour just to win the tournament alone.”
Thomas revealed a number of his likely Ryder Cup team-mates will play the course next month when they make the trans-Atlantic journey for the Open.
However, he will not be joining them in France.
“I felt coming here and getting hopefully four competitive rounds and some practice rounds would be plenty for me,” added the 25-year-old, who has already done his sightseeing in Paris – avoiding the mistake compatriot Bubba Watson made in 2011 when he referred to “that big tower” (Eiffel Tower), an “arch I drove around in a circle” (Arc de Triomphe) and “a building starting with L” (the Louvre).
“For me the Open is a major which I prep my schedule around all year so I want to be rested for that.
“I will take a week off. Although it would be very productive in terms of the Ryder Cup I need to get my body and mind ready for the Open Championship.”
Thomas will play the first two rounds with defending champion Tommy Fleetwood and home favourite Alexander Levy.
There were high scores, treacherous winds, frustrated golfers, vocal fans and chased down putts, but nothing could stop Brooks Koepka from becoming only the third player in history to win back-to-back US Open titles on Sunday.
Incredibly, two months ago, his sole focus was rehabbing serious damage to a wrist ligament injury that kept him out of practice for nearly four months, enough time for any golfer to forget what an eight iron or a putting green looked like.
Those long months at his home gym in Jupiter in Florida surely made winning a second US Open crown since Curtis Strange in 1989 seem like a scarcely believable dream.
And for much of the first two rounds at Shinnecock it appeared much the same as he struggled under the stiff winds and rocky greens on Long Island.
Six shots back at the start of round two, it looked like an uphill task for the 28-year-old to navigate, especially with the sparkling form of Dustin Johnson who was storming through the field like a Gulliver amongst a crowd of Lilliputians.
But, like any great champion, every bit of progress comes in gradual steps and Koepka posted a four under-66 to climb back into contention.
His versatility was demonstrated superbly on the gruelling Shinnecock course where under-par scores come rare. Last year at Erin Hills, he posted a 16-under 272, whereas this year he had to settle for a one-over par 281 (75-66-72-68).
His birdies on two, three, five, 10 and 16 pushed him into the lead on Sunday, holding off an impressive final round from Tommy Fleetwood who shot a scintillating 63 to finish second.
The low scores will undoubtedly milk the attention on Koepka’s scorecard, but it was the saved par from challenging positions on the 12th and 13th, and his stunning chip to a couple of feet on 16 that were highlights of a championship winning performance.
Some players can deal with the pressure, others crumble and only a select band can play to their potential on a consistent basis. Koepka is clearly a mix of all three and was rewarded for his intelligence and strategy on a course that saw marquee names like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods all fail to make it past Friday.
Discussions surrounding Shinnecock and the USGA’s handling of it may overshadow the tournament as a whole, but the achievements of a player like Koepka cannot be underestimated.
For the world No4 to show such consistency and confidence in just his sixth tournament this year after injury is incredible, and not only is he the first player to successfully defend the major in nearly 30 years, but the fourth golfer to win two US Open titles before turning 30, joining an elite club of Woods, Ernie Els and Jack Nicklaus.
Players like Johnson and Spieth may be household names in the US, but Koepka certainly has a bright future in the game ahead of him. And with it being a Ryder Cup year, he has the chance to be one of Jim Furyk’s key lieutenants at Le Golf National later this year as the Americans bid to defend their title on European soil.
Fleetwood carded a stunning final round of 63 at Shinnecock Hills, agonisingly missing from eight feet for birdie on the 18th to equal the all-time major record of 62 set by Branden Grace in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.
The 27-year-old’s score still matched the lowest in US Open history and set a testing clubhouse target on two over par, with Koepka the only player able to beat it – by a single shot – thanks to a nerveless 68.
TWEET OF THE DAY
Koepka’s brother and fellow professional Chase may have been celebrating a bit loudly.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Protecting a one-shot lead with three holes to play, Koepka struck the vital blow with a superb approach to the par-five 16th to set up a tap-in birdie.
ROUND OF THE DAY
Koepka’s 68 was brilliant under the pressure of holding the lead, but Fleetwood came within a whisker of equalling the lowest score in major championship history and still matched the best ever in the US Open.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, this is incredible. I don’t think I could have dreamed of this, going back-to-back.” – The size of his achievement begins to dawn on Koepka.
STATISTIC OF THE DAY
The Golf Channel’s Justin Ray puts Fleetwood’s performance in perspective.
The 18th played as the toughest hole for the first time, perhaps unsurprisingly given it is a 486-yard uphill par four. Dustin Johnson carded one of the seven birdies to finish outright third, while Koepka took one of the 18 bogeys as the hole played to an average of 4.313.
For the third day in succession, the fifth hole played as the easiest with an average of 4.836, offering up one eagle and 26 birdies.
ON THE UP
Fleetwood’s prospects of a first major title after he followed last year’s fourth place with a runners-up finish, coincidentally behind the man he partnered in the final round at Erin Hills 12 months earlier.
ON THE SLIDE
European hopes of breaking the American stranglehold on golf’s biggest titles, with Koepka’s win meaning they still hold all four majors and all the transatlantic team competitions.