Julio Cortez/Associated Press
Brooks Koepka was not about to let an opportunity to win his second consecutive U.S. Open championship slip through his grasp.
Playing in the next-to-last pairing with Dustin Johnson, Koepka began the round in a four-way tie for the lead with Johnson, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau.
However, playing with the lead at the start of the final round meant that Koepka was under pressure. That pressure may crush lesser golfers, but it heightened Koepka’s game. He went on to shoot a 68 and win the title at Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, New York with a one-over-par 281. That allowed him to win the tournament by one stroke over Tommy Fleetwood of England.
Koepka put his power on display from tee to green both Sunday and throughout the four rounds of the tournament. However, the reason he was able to shoot a one-over for the tournament and close with a two-under 68 was his ability to make clutch putts once he found his stride in the second round.
Koepka was struggling midway through Friday’s round, as he found himself seven shots out of first place and playing inconsistently. However, he found his game and quickly got back into contention.
“I just kept grinding and I always felt I had a chance,” Koepka said during his post-match interview on the Fox broadcast. “I was hitting the ball well and I was putting the ball well, but I just had to keep going. Once I made a few birdies, I knew I had a chance to get back in it and show what I could do.”
Koepka received the lion’s share of the $12 million purse paid out in the tournament, and he also earned the championship trophy and the Jack Nicklaus medal that goes to the winner.
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press
Top-10 Payout Breakdown (ties included, per ESPN.com)
1. Brooks Koepka, $2,160,000
2. Tommy Fleetwood, $1,296,000
3. Dustin Johnson, $812,927
4. Patrick Reed, $569,884
5. Tony Finau, $474,659
6. Xander Schauffele, $361,923
6. Tyrrell Hatton, $361,923
6. Henrik Stenson, $361,923
6. Daniel Berger, $361,923
10. Webb Simpson, $270,151
10. Justin Rose, $270,151
Here’s a look at the final leaderboardper PGATour.com.
While Koepka managed to play steady golf with the lead throughout the final round, Fleetwood played spectacularly and nearly took the title after shooting a 63.
U.S. Open (USGA) @usopengolf
This is not an RT. Fleetwood … buckets. Four in a row. ¯_(ツ)_/¯ #USOpen https://t.co/k7avXbZZH1
Fleetwood played much earlier in the day and let loose with a barrage of birdies to move into contention. He was seven-under par through 15 holes, and he had birdie opportunities on the final three holes that would have allowed him to shoot 62 or better and put even more pressure on Koepka.
Fleetwood was thrilled with his round, but he would have liked to cut one more stroke off his score.
“I knew I was kind of [feeling good] in it teeing off, but you still have to get off to that good start,” Fleetwood said on the Fox broadcast (h/t Adam Silverstein of CBSSports.com). “… All the way around, I always felt like I could get myself back in it. It’s funny though, when you finish, you always feel like you’re going to be just short [of winning]. … I made great putts coming down that back nine. It’s easy to look at 16, 18 where I had chances, because that’s essentially what it comes down to, but I made so many good putts today.”
Johnson hit the ball nearly as well as Koepka. He launched massive tee shots, and his fairway irons were focused on the flagstick and left him with several birdie opportunities.
However, Johnson’s putting was off Sunday, just as it was during Saturday’s moving-day round. That’s what kept him from winning the second U.S. Open of his career.
Patrick Reed made five birdies during the first seven holes to earn a share of the lead, but he followed that streak with a run of three bogeys in four holes. Tony Finau shot a 72 and had several opportunities to put his imprint on the final round, but he could not muster any consistency.
Koepka has now won consecutive U.S. Open titles. He joins Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89) as the only golfers in the last 68 years to accomplish that feat.