For only the third time in the post-World War II era – and seventh time in 118 stagings – the U.S. Open has a repeat champion. Brooks Koepka, who won last year at Erin Hills by shooting 16 under par – finished 17 strokes higher at Shinnecock Hills, but a final-round 68 on Sunday was good enough for a one-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood.
Koepka, who was sidelined for four months earlier this year due to ligament damage in his left wrist, is the first to successfully defend his crown since Curtis Strange 29 years ago, and in the same state. Strange, an on-course analyst for Fox Sports who won his second title at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., was one of the first to congratulate the 28-year-old from West Palm Beach, Fla., as he exited the 18th green. Koepka, now owner of four worldwide victories and No. 9 in the world, was then greeted by his girlfriend, Jena Sims, and other family and friends before making his triumph official in the scoring area.
World No. 1 and 2016 champion Dustin Johnson, who along with Koepka was one of four players who started the final round tied for the lead at 3 over par, mustered an even-par 70 playing alongside his good friend Koepka to finish third at 3-over 283. Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed made an early run with a first-nine 31, but came home in 37 to finish fourth at 284. Tony Finau followed up Saturday’s 66 with a 2-over 72 for a fifth-place showing, four behind Koepka.
“It sounds incredible,” said Koepka of being a multiple U.S. Open champion. “To be honest with you, I probably couldn’t have dreamed of it in my wildest dreams. I’m at a loss for words right now, but it’s really incredible. I couldn’t be happier.”
A day after an extremely challenging setup humbled most of the 67 players who survived the 36-hole cut, the USGA set up the iconic William Flynn design a bit more conservatively. The result: the scoring average dipped a little more than three strokes, from 75.33 to 72.18.
Fleetwood, 27, of England, who started his final round 2 hours and 23 minutes before the final pairing of Finau and Daniel Berger teed off, came within a whisker of registering the lowest round in championship history. On a day when he converted eight birdie putts totaling 161 feet, his 8½-footer for No. 9 just curled off to the right on the par-4 18th.
His 63 was the sixth in U.S. Open history and just the second in a final round. Johnny Miller famously posted that score 45 years ago at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club to complete a six-stroke rally for the title.
“I thought if the conditions were a bit more like yesterday, I’d have felt a lot more comfy in the clubhouse,” said Fleetwood, who finished fourth last year. “I’d have felt I had a bit more of a chance.
“I’ve got nothing but respect for how well Brooks did, just to hole the putts at the right time. He kept it together, and he’s a world-class player.”
When Fleetwood posted his score, Koepka and the rest of Sunday’s contenders still had nine holes left. Shinnecock’s inward nine had not treated the former Florida State University All-American kindly over the first three rounds. Koepka was 6 over par, with just three birdies. And at the par-3 11th, he could have easily lost control of the steering wheel. Converting a 13-footer for bogey portended a stretch of clutch putts. He made a 6-footer for par on No. 12, and after hacking out of deep rough on the par-4 14th hole, he got up and down from 62 yards out, holing an 8½-footer for par to maintain his one-stroke edge.
The coup de grace was the 16th hole, a par 5 that none of the other players who finished in the top 10 managed to birdie, including Fleetwood. Koepka stuffed his wedge approach from 122 yards to 4 feet, which he converted for a two-stroke lead. Even a 72nd-hole bogey couldn’t prevent him from hoisting the trophy.
“It’s a fun week,” said Koepka. “I enjoy the test. I enjoy being pushed to the limit. Sometimes you feel like you are about to break mentally, but that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy hard golf courses. I enjoy playing about the toughest in golf you are ever going to play.”
|Brooks Koepka||2017-18||Erin Hills
Shinnecock Hills Golf Club
|Curtis Strange||1988-89||The Country Club (Brookline, Mass.)
Oak Hill Country Club
|Ben Hogan||1950-51||Merion Golf Club
Oakland Hills Country Club
|Ralph Guldahl||1937-38||Oakland Hills Country Club
Cherry Hills Country Club
|Bob Jones||1929-30||Winged Foot Golf Club
Interlachen Country Club
|John McDermott||1911-12||Chicago Golf Club
Country Club of Buffalo (N.Y.)
|Willie Anderson||1903-04-05||Baltusrol Golf Club
Glen View Club
Myopia Hunt Club
What Champion Receives
For winning the 118th U.S. Open, Brooks Koepka earned the following:
- The Jack Nicklaus Medal
- Custody of the U.S. Open Trophy for one year
- Exemptions into the next 10 U.S. Open Championships
- A check for $2.1 million (largest in golf)
- Exemptions into the next five Masters
- Exemptions into the next five Open Championships conducted by The R&A
- Exemptions into the next five PGA Championships
- Reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale and Louisiana State University rising senior Luis Gagne shared low-amateur honors at 16-over 296. It is the first time there were co-low amateurs in the U.S. Open since 2010 (Scott Langley and Russell Henley). This was also the first year of the USGA’s new exemption for the previous year’s winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
- The 15 sub-70 scores on Sunday was one more than the total from Round 2 and were 12 more than the third round.
- Rickie Fowler improved his third-round performance by 19 strokes, carding a 65 on Sunday that was only bettered by Tommy Fleetwood, whose 63 was the lowest round ever recorded during any of the five U.S. Opens contested at Shinnecock Hills.
- Fowler’s 19-stroke differential between Rounds 3 and 4 is the largest in championship history and matched the largest between any round in the post-World War II era. Earl Puckett opened the 1965 U.S. Open at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis with a 93 and came back with a 74 in Round 2.
- Dustin Johnson now has top-four finishes in four of the last five U.S. Opens. The lone exception was last year at Erin Hills, where he missed the cut.
Tony Finau on Brooks Koepka winning a second consecutive title:
“Incredible. It’s a reason why he’s the champion. When I looked at the scoreboard all day, just chasing him all day. The way he can strike a golf ball is incredible, honestly.”
Tommy Fleetwood when asked about being the second player to shoot a final-round 63:
“Yeah, but I wanted 62.”
Fleetwood on the appreciation of the U.S. fans this week:
“It was great, wasn’t it? I've been really lucky. This year is the first I’ve had status on the [PGA] Tour, so I’ve played a little bit more in America, and the fans have always been great with me. So I’m lucky and grateful in that respect. This week was on another level, especially today. As the round went on, more and more people gathered, and I was on a hot streak. And walking up 18 was very special, really. Just having that appreciation in the crowd, it being an American crowd as well, sort of getting behind an English guy. It was great for me. I loved it, and I do love playing over here.”
Reigning Masters champion Patrick Reed on posting a third consecutive top-five finish in a major championship:
“Of course, it’s disappointing, but at the same time … to finish in the top 10 in my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them means a lot. Of course, the Grand Slam would have been nice. But honestly to me, that was really the last thing on my mind. It was go out, play some solid golf, try to post a number and see if you can get the job done.”
Rickie Fowler on shooting a final-round 65 and the condition of the course:
“That's the golf course I enjoy playing. Obviously, pin placements were a lot safer. It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that’s for sure. I think they did a good job with setup today.”
Matt Parziale on sharing low-amateur honors:
“I was happy to play well all four days. I wouldn’t say that I played great. I played pretty steady for four days … I responded well every day. Even after a bad finish yesterday, to come out and play a somewhat decent round today, I’m happy with that.”
Co-low amateur Luis Gagne on his takeaway from his week at Shinnecock Hills:
“I just learned a lot. One thing is knowing that I can play with these guys. I mean, of course, I still have a lot of work to do to be able to be out here. Knowing that I’m working on the right things and my skill level’s right with these guys, it gives me a lot of confidence.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org