After standing victorious in 2017, and recently returning from injury, can the Florida State standout Brooks Koepka earn back-to-back U.S. Open victories?
Nearly six years ago, Brooks Koepka dove head first into the professional golf game with elite strength off the tee and veteran patience. Koepka earned his first shot at a major championship in 2012 when he qualified for the U.S. Open as an amateur. He would go on to miss the cut by five strokes that year but shortly thereafter turned pro and honed his skills on the European Tour.
Winning seven times overseas and once on the PGA Tour prior to 2017, Koepka entered last season with something to prove. Following a missed cut at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the 28-year-old seemed to settle in. Koepka would go on to play the weekend in his next 20 straight events, including 11 top-15 finishes without missing the cutline.
During that 20 event stretch Koepka earned his career defining victory during the 2017 U.S. Open. Heavily guarded by club grabbing fescue and unruly winds, Koepka found success with the putter during his four days at Erin Hills to earn the four shot victory over Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. A similar poise and patience from the defending champion could see our first back-to-back U.S. Open champion since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.
A wrist injury sidelined Koepka for the first part of his 2018 season. Since returning he has made four of his last five cuts and finished runner-up at the Fort Worth Invitational. Add a T11 finish at this year’s Players Championship to the resume and Koepka is on a steady string of positive momentum heading into the U.S. Open’s return to Shinnecock Hills.
In his last four U.S. Open appearances alone, Koepka has yet to finish worse than 18th and has made the cut in his last 14 major appearances. Most notable for Koepka is his strength off the tee, currently averaging 308 yards in driving distance according to PGA Tour’s ShotLink stats. In 2017 he finished top-10 in driving distance and birdie average for the entire season.
Koepka’s greens in regulation have improved over 5 percent since last year and will be much needed heading into this weekend’s major. His abilities off the tee will be key to his victory at Shinnecock where just shooting par is going to be a struggle for most of the field. If the reigning champion can keep calm and put the early pressure on the likes of Dustin Johnson and golf’s top names with steady and consistent play, Koepka the storied U.S. Open trophy once again.