Navigating breezy conditions with pure ball striking, and handling the pressures of trying to win his first major championship, Brooks Koepka pulled away from a battle with Brian Harman to win the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills on June 18 in Erin, Wis., located about 30 minutes from Milwaukee.
Koepka, 27, of Jupiter, Fla., who had only one other PGA TOUR title, completed 72 holes in 16-under 272, tying the championship scoring record in relation to par Rory McIlroy set in 2011 at Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md. Koepka is the seventh first-time major winner in a row, a run that started with Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Harman began the day one stroke ahead of Koepka, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Thomas – who set the scoring record in relation to par Saturday with a 9-under 63 – but fell back with a pair of back-nine bogey and ended up with an even-par 72 to share runner-up honors at 12-under with Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, whose 66 was low round of the final day.
“I felt like I was playing some of the best golf I’ve ever played,” said Koepka, who led the field in greens in regulation. “All around, my game was pretty solid, and if you can go around here without making a double bogey, then you’re doing all right.”
Ranked 22nd in the world entering the week, Koepka, 27, emerged from a leaderboard that was crowded with contenders who never had won a major title. He became the eighth champion in the last 11 years to make the U.S. Open his first major victory. It was just his fourth professional title and second in America, but it yielded the biggest first prize in golf history, $2.16 million.
Fleetwood, also shooting 72, ended up fourth at 277, while first-round sensation Xander Schauffele, a PGA Tour rookie playing in his first major, closed with a 69 to share fifth place at 278 with Bill Haas, who also had 69, and Rickie Fowler, the first-round leader, who settled for 72. Thomas, meanwhile bogeyed three of his first five holes and made only one birdie in a 75 to fall to T-9. He had made nine birdies and an eagle the day prior.
Koepka and Harman were tied through 11 holes until the left-hander suffered consecutive bogeys. Then Koepka pulled away with a brilliant stretch of putting that started when he saved par at the 13th with a nine-footer.
“I built on that putt on 13,” he said. “That par save was massive.”
A five-footer at the par-5 14th after he reached a greenside bunker in two on the 588-yard hole started a run of three birdies in a row that essentially clinched it. He followed with a 10-footer at 15 after a “chipped” 8-iron from 155 and then nailed a 17-footer at 16 for good measure to tie McIlroy.
Just before accepting the trophy and the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal, Koepka was overcome with emotion and later offered the trophy as a Father’s Day gift to his dad, Bob.
“To win my first major in the United States is pretty special,” Koepka said. “It is Father’s Day, so hopefully … like I said, I didn’t get him a card, so I really hope this works.”