Big-hitting Brooks Koepka let his putter do the talking as he saw off the challenges of Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama to win the US Open at Erin Hills, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Known for his extraordinary length off the tee, it was with his putter that Koepka separated himself from the chasing pack in Wisconsin before going on to add some history of his own as he claimed his maiden Major win.
It was the perfect start, with birdies on the first and second holes before five consecutive pars consolidated his place at the top of the pile along with 54-hole leader Brian Harman. A birdie at the eighth helped him shift the pressure to the contenders in the field, with the crowd picking up on the feeling that it was Koepka’s day.
And one by one the challengers fell by the wayside. Either they were blown away by the blustery wind or paying the price for self-inflicted damage, but the chasing pack which started with eight rising stars was quickly was reduced to less than a handful.
First, it was Justin Thomas, who made three bogeys in his first five holes, to disappear from the picture after his heroics of yesterday had most believing he would be involved in the final script on Sunday. Then Koepka’s playing partner Tommy Fleetwood and Rickie Fowler dropped from the scene. Both failed to build any solid momentum before untimely bogeys derailed their afternoons, and ended their hopes of becoming the player to extend the streak of seven first-time Major winners.
It was left to unfancied Harman to battle Koepka.
He did an admirable job as he took the battle down to the final nine holes, until the lefty made consecutive bogeys on 12 and 13 – the same two holes where Koepka showed his mettle with his putter, sinking two clutch putts for par before going on a run that would ultimately win him the Championship.
By the time he sank his third birdie in a row on the 16th, Koepka had stretched his lead to four, and the engraver was no doubt starting to sketch the young American’s name as the 117th winner. But not before Koepka made a dart at the lowest-ever tally in US Open history, set at -16 by Rory McIlory at Congressional in 2011.
After hitting the day’s longest drive down 18, not even his worst shot of the day – a pitch which just managed to stay on the top shelf of the green, could take the gloss off his win. Two putts saw him tie McIlroy’s mark as he raised his fists triumphantly, winner of his country’s national championship.
Harman finished with a bogey to tie Matsuyama in second place at -12.
For Koepka, his final round 67 helped him become only the sixth player in US Open history to win and shoot all four rounds under par. His prize? His first Major, the realisation of years of hard work and a cheque for a cool $2.16-million.
For Fowler and Thomas, it was another brutal lesson in golf’s hardest test.
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