Brooks Koepka is the new US Open champion, the record 16-under-par winner in Wisconsin – a first major title for him at a course, Erin Hills (which sounds rather more like a C&W singer than a USGA venue), that was also virgin territory for golf at this level. The 27-year-old Floridian thus became the seventh consecutive first time winner of a major championship after a resolutely impressive performance on Sunday that was sealed with three successive birdies from the 14th. That gave him a cushion of comfort and in the end he ran out the winner by four shots from Hideki Matsuyama of Japan and the lefty-handed American, Brian Harman. Tommy Fleetwood of England, who played the last 36 holes alongside Koepka, finished fourth, a further shot in arrears. He should have no regrets while Koepka deserves huge praise for scoring five under par in the last round on a very windy day.
In some ways, this was quite a strange championship. Only four of the world’s top dozen golfers made the cut – Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler. The latter had opened up with a seven-under-par 65, the lowest score in relation to par for any first round in US Open history – this on a course set up to play at 7,741 yards (the longest ever for a major championship) but with multiple teeing options which meant the USGA could extend the layout beyond 8,000 yards if they so wished. Well, I’m only glad that no one is suggesting the modern golf ball goes too far, which they might have been inclined to do on Saturday after Justin Tomas hit a 3-wood 299 yards to set up an eagle on the final hole which gave him a 63, the first time anyone had ever done a nine-under round at a US Open.
The world No.2, Rory McIlroy, was talking a good game beforehand but, of course, it’s all about getting your clubs to do the talking. Rory could hardly have got off to a better start: he drove the green on the 330-yard 2nd hole and drained the putt for an eagle. From that point on, his clubs completely forgot their vocabulary. They bogeyed the 3rd and 8th and contrived two bogeys and two doubles coming in. A 78 had cooked their owner’s chances before we’d even got to Friday morning, when he played the last six holes in four under par for a 71, but by then it was far too late. And at which point he’d only played 24 competitive rounds this season. The second half of the campaign can be expected to be much better.
By this stage we’d all forgotten there was no Phil Mickelson at Erin Hills. He’s six times been runner-up in his national championship, the only major he’s yet to win. Instead he was at his daughter’s graduation, although having told everyone weeks ago that’s where he would be, and having eventually got to realise that no weather delay was going to enable him to make the tee-time the USGA had allocated him, he didn’t formally withdraw until a few hours before he was due off. But that is very much a postscript now. All that matters is who was there. And among those in attendance, Koepka proved the man to beat, and demonstrated that he would not be beaten – even by a different lefty.
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