June 18, 2018
Brooks Koepka first to win back-to-back U.S. Golf Opens in 29 years
Kyle Porter & Chip Patterson
Brooks Koepka battled through two tough afternoons at Shinnecock Hills over the weekend to become the first repeat winner at the U.S. Open since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 and just the second since Ben Hogan in 1950-51.
Everything about 2018’s event from the scoring perspective was the inverse of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills. By winning on both courses, which forced golfers to play quite differently, Koepka has cemented his status as one of the best golfers in the world when he’s healthy.
Koepka not only had to battle 54-hole co-leader and playing partner Dustin Johnson, he had to keep his eye on a leaderboard that saw Masters champion Patrick Reed make a run andearlier in the day. Fleetwood entered the clubhouse at 2-over par, and after both Koepka and Johnson bogeyed the 11th hole, Fleetwood’s score looked strong enough to put him in contention for a playoff.
Brooks Koepka–US Open Golf Champion 2018 and 2017
But when Koepka knocked his approach shot snug on 16 to push the lead to even par with two holes to play, there was no question that he was going clear every hurdle Shinnecock Hills provided this week.
The initial challenge was his own doing, a 75 on Thursday with two bogeys and two double-bogeys. He rallied to a 66 on Friday, and as the course and conditions took hold of this tournament on Saturday afternoon, Koepka was impacted just like the rest of the field. He carded three bogeys in his final seven holes of the day to finish with a 72, but those four pars he had to grind out in the same stretch left him in tie for first place and in the mix to win on Sunday.
Round 4 was all about execution. Koepka was all over the pins early in the round, with birdies on three of the first five holes. When the wind picked up in the afternoon, he did as good a job scrambling as anyone on the course. He was lights out on the greens, burying tough putts from 5-10 feet when his playing partner couldn’t buy a birdie putt.
Here’s how the leaderboard looked at the end of the 2018 U.S. Open:
1. Brooks Koepka (+1): A two-putt bogey on No. 18 was not going to sour a coronation moment for the two-time major winner. While he occupies a crowded room of under-30 American superstars, no one else has two U.S. Open titles. In winning his second before turning 30, Koepka becomes just the fourth golfer since World War II to accomplish that feat, joining Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Jack Nicklaus.
2. Tommy Fleetwood (+2): It’s hard to nitpick a historic round (and new course record at Shinnecock Hills), but Fleetwood’s 63 could have been a 60 or 61. We will remember the putt on 18, but Fleetwood also had three or four really good birdie looks that didn’t fall during his charge up the leaderboard. The next step for Fleetwood is putting together four consistent rounds of this elite golf in a major championship.
3. Dustin Johnson (+3): The stats after two rounds hinted at potential unsustainable success on the greens and somewhat average, at least by D.J.’s standard, work off the tee and on his approach shots. The confidence he had been showing on the greens looked lost on Saturday and Sunday, as his putting will be the talking point of why the World No. 1 was not able to convert on his lead in 2018.
4. Patrick Reed (+4): The reality inside Reed’s mind — where he is the greatest golfer of all time and we just don’t get it — and the reality shared by the rest of the golf world moved a little bit closer together this week, where Reed burned hot on a 31 going out only to flame out with a 37 coming in for a fourth-place finish.
5. Tony Finau (+5): It was an electric afternoon with Finau on the course with moments of title contention and big jumps and slides on a very crowded leaderboard. Playing in the final group with Daniel Berger, Finau had five birdies, five bogeys and a double-bogey on No. 18 to notch his first top-five finish and third top-10 finish in a major championship.