Brooks Koepka broke into the Major winner’s circle with a stunning final round as many of his competitors faded from the picture. WADE PRETORIUS wraps up the US Open with the good, the bad and everything in between.
Birdie: Koepka show his class
There’s not a lot not to like about Brooks Koepka. He’s big and strong, hits it Dustin Johnson-long and can putt too – he showed that on Sunday. Koepka has flown under the radar, especially in his home country after his decision to start out his professional career in Europe. He spent some time on the Challenge Tour – like the Web.com tour, but for Europe – and won in Spain, Italy and Scotland.
‘Going over to play the Challenge Tour was really, really cool, to get to travel the world at 22 and do what you do for a living is pretty neat,’ Koepka said, holding the silver US Open trophy firmly.
‘To go over there, I think it helped me grow up a little bit and really figure out that, hey, play golf, get it done, and then you can really take this somewhere. And I built a lot of confidence off that.’
Next up? The European Tour, where he won in 2014 at the Turkish Airlines Open and that earned him a place in his national championship – which he won at his fourth attempt. That’s quality.
Koepka won the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and has over 20 top 10 finishes to his name. This win was coming. This win won’t be his last.
‘I’ve been trying to win so badly. I felt like I’ve underachieved,’ he said. ‘I just felt like I should be winning more … I just couldn’t stand the fact that I’d only won once.’
Don’t worry, Brooks. You’re doing just fine right now.
Par: Erin Hills a worthy venue
I’ll make this short – Erin Hills was a great course. It won rave reviews from most of the players, even the ones that failed to hang around on the weekend. I’ll be glad to see it host another US Open – this time keep the fescue wild and free and let’s see what the final score will be.
Many former players, including Johnny Miller – who had his named wiped from the record books by Justin Thomas – moaned about it, but who can control the wind that came down on Friday night or the wind that showed up a few days late?
The course had something for everyone and provided a fair, but firm test. Not that I’d be joining the queue to play it, that fescue was just something else.
Bogey: Rickie seems okay with how it all went down
There’s nothing wrong with losing. It hurts, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Choking, on the other hand, is a completely different beast. Fowler didn’t choke as he attempted to get over the line, but his post-round comments were surprising and a little alarming. Winners hate to lose – we know that from the All Blacks, Tiger Woods and many other elite players or teams.
Justin Thomas admitted his round and not winning ‘stung’ after he faded badly from the picture on Sunday. He also mentioned how he wished it was him when talking about his friend’s big win (not in an arrogant way, in just a ‘it really sucks its not me’ kinda way. Fowler’s comments, on the other hand, don’t sit well with me. He appears to be happy with how it all panned out, that he fought well to get back into the top five and was just, well, a bit unlucky with the wind.
That’s not the kind of winning mentality you expect – he should be furious. That missed putt on the second should infuriate him, and he should tell the world just how much it hurts to crumble when it matters most.
Another worrying sign is that he was fine keeping to the same plan that worked for the first round and kept him in the tournament in round two and three. Sunday was another beast – the wind was up and there were eight players chasing their first Major.
Someone was bound to put up a low score, you had to attack the course where possible and not sit back and wait for the others to fade. He played way too many three woods off the tee that left him at the wind’s mercy with long irons into the greens, while Koepka was pin-hunting with short irons and it paid off – he gave himself the best possible position to make putts. Did Fowler do that? No.
The US Open will go down like his performance at this year’s Masters (he started the final 18 in third but shot 76 to finish T11) – good, but not great. Good doesn’t win you Majors at this level.
– Follow Wade on Twitter: @wadepretorius