SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Tommy Fleetwood knew he missed a putt for history. What he didn’t find out until later is the same putt would have got him into a playoff at the U.S. Open.
But he wasn’t about to let that ruin one of the great rounds in major championship history.
Fleetwood matched the U.S. Open scoring record on Sunday, becoming only the sixth player to shoot 63 in the 118th playing of this championship. He finished alone in second place, one shot behind Brooks Koepka at Shinnecock Hills.
“It’s been a great day,” Fleetwood said. “It’s easy to look at it and think I was one shy, and you can be disappointed. But there’s so many positives to look at and so much that you can take from it and learn from it.”
Fleetwood made four straight birdies on the back nine to get to 7-under par for the day through 15. And he finished his round with three legitimate birdie puts to reach 8-under and make history. But he missed a 13-footer at 16, a 20-footer at 17, and a 9-foot birdie putt at 18.
He admitted that the putt on 18, that came within inches of going in, will stick with him.
“Obviously, that’s the putt that will play on your mind because that was the last shot you hit and that was your chance,” he said. “But I missed some putts in the week. I made some putts. I think everybody did. And your score is your score. And for me, just getting that close to winning a Major again, I think that is the ultimate thing I’ll take from it.”
The 27-year-old Englishman finished fourth at last year’s U.S. Open, but wasn’t in the picture as Sunday started — he began his round six shots behind and two hours before the leaders. But he quickly began climbing the board with four birdies in his first seven holes. A bogey on the ninth hole quelled his momentum, until he went on that back-nine tear that put him on the verge of history.
He didn’t get that U.S. Open scoring record. And he didn’t become only the second player in history to shoot 62 in a major — Branden Grace shot 62 in last year’s British Open. But Fleetwood shot the lowest score ever in a U.S. Open at Shinnecock.
And he also joined some pretty heady company. Johnny Miller (1963), Jack Nicklaus (1980) Tom Weiskopf (1980), Vijay Singh (2003) and Justin Thomas (2017) are the only other players in U.S. Open history to shoot 63.
Shots of the day
Brooks Koepka, 11th and 14th holes
Koepka drained several clutch putts on Sunday, but two stood above the rest. He got himself into deep trouble on the 11th hole, when he hit the ball over the green and then put it into the bunker. He was left with 12-feet for bogey. If he missed, he would have given the momentum back to playing partner Dustin Johnson. But he poured the putt into the middle of the hole.
“That was big,” Koepka said, “because, from where we were [over the green]I want to say I would have taken double when we were in jail.”
He made another huge putt on the 14th hole. Koepka drove the ball in the right rough on the long par 4, was forced to lay up and then hit a wedge to eight feet. He put that putt in the center, keeping him one ahead of Fleetwood with four to play.
Hole of the day
17th hole, par-5, 621 yards
The U.S. Open was still very much up for grabs when Koepka stepped onto the tee at the par-5 16th hole on Sunday afternoon. He led Dustin Johnson by only two shots, Fleetwood by one, and any slip-up would have put him in a playoff — or worse. But Koepka didn’t slip up. He hit the fairway with his drive, laid up perfectly down the left side of the fairway. Then, from 122 yards, Koepka hit a wedge to three-and-a-half feet. With one brilliant swing, he had essentially ended the tournament and clinched his second straight U.S. Open.