At the start of the final round of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, we thought we might be in for a thriller and perhaps even that dreaded “p-word,” but Brooks Koepka separated himself from the field on the back nine and cruised to a four-shot victory. Koepka’s 16-under total tied the tournament record for lowest total under par, which was set by Rory McIlroy in 2011 at Congressional — which quite a few players and caddies predicted as a possibility before championship commenced.
Koepka essentially locked up the title on the short par-4 15th. After hitting a mediocre tee shot with a 4-iron, he followed it with one of his best strikes of the week with an 8-iron on his approach to 10 feet. His caddie Ricky Elliott told me that was the most crucial shot of the day because the 15th was the last hole where they could run into trouble — it also played the most difficult in the final round — as the last three holes were set up generously and playing downwind. Koepka rolled in a 10-footer for birdie and it was pretty much over.
“On 15, I kind of hit actually a poor tee shot, but that second shot was unbelievable,” said Koepka in his post-win presser. “That pin is hanging off the back and into the wind. It was pretty impressive, or I thought. It was probably one of the best shots I’ve hit all week, to be honest with you.”
It was definitely game, set, match, after Koepka rolled in a 17-footer on the par-3 16th, which played the second easiest on Sunday. He reacted with a big smile — well, for him, at least, and a fist pump.
At that point, the few players still on the course had either already faltered or didn’t have enough holes left. 54-hole leader Brian Harman put it best, saying Brooks *won* the championship; no one *lost* it.
“You’ve got to tip your cap,” said Harman after posting an even-par 72 to tie for second with Hideki Matsuyama. “He went and won the golf tournament on the back nine. I’ve done it before, but he did it today.”
“That’s probably the most emotion I’ve ever showed coming down the stretch,” said Koepka. “I mean, it feels amazing to get my name on this trophy with so many other great names. It’s truly an honor.”
Errr, you could say Koepka has a bit of a poker face, but yes, a few of us did notice that he indeed smiled wider and threw in a few more fist-pumps than usual.
Q. You talked about showing more emotion than you ever have coming down the stretch. A lot of us didn’t quite see that, I’m wonder if you could —
BROOKS KOEPKA: Did you see that fist pump there on 18?
Q. Huge. Yeah, big. Yeah, you and Dustin. Can you give us some insight what was going on inside since we didn’t see much outside?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Just staying one shot at a time. That’s what I kept doing.
Dustin actually called me last night and told me the same thing, just stay patient. Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to win the thing, and just don’t get ahead of yourself. A bunch of people told me that.
And I felt like I really stayed patient all week. Between conversations I’ve had with Claude and Pete Cowan sat me down, I think, on Tuesday, and kind of had a conversation with me just kind of staying patient, not trying to win.
I felt like that has been the thing lately with me, why I haven’t really played that well, I’ve been trying to win so badly. I felt like I’ve underachieved. And the more patient that I can become, the more times I’ll put myself in this situation.
This part was also funny… Koepka was asked if he could elaborate on his conversation with DJ the night before.
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yeah, I mean there’s probably not that much that’s that interesting (laughter) to be honest. It was a long phone call. For us it was like two minutes (laughter) it wasn’t much. But he just said a few things, and just stay patient. And I’ll win if I stay patient and just keep doing what I’m doing.
Because we played Tuesday practice round together and, I mean, he watched me play. I thought I played pretty solid on Tuesday. And he said he was pulling for me and just hang in there. It will happen.
Koepka and DJ aren’t known to be the most chatty guys in the world, so it was quite funny.
More from Koepka’s presser:
Q. Claude was just talking about how you struggled early this year, but you’ve been able to bounce back. What was going on early in the year, and how did you get yourself through that?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Just some stuff off the golf course, that’s it. I’m not going to expand on it. Sorry.
Q. At 16 under, this tournament always bills itself as golf’s ultimate test. At 16 under, did you feel like you got the ultimate test?
BROOKS KOEPKA: Yep. I felt like — especially today with the wind. I mean, this golf course, you had to put the ball in the fairway and if you didn’t you really got penalized, just plain and simple. I was in the fescue a couple of times, I think maybe three times, and it all jumped out straight left on me, I didn’t even have a good lie. I can’t imagine if I hit it in there a couple more times how bad it would be.
With it being wet, it made the fairways a little wider and the greens more receptive. This golf course is in fabulous shape. I love it, obviously. Yeah, I thought it was a great test.
Q. With the first major under your belt now, does it take pressure off of you going into future majors?
BROOKS KOEPKA: No, I don’t think so. I’ve worked my tail off over the last six months, made some changes, from grinding every day in the gym, trying to make sure that I was physically ready and strong enough to be able to swing the club the way I wanted to. During that struggle the beginning part of the year, I never quit. I mean, I was grinding all day, every day is what it felt like. And I just couldn’t get my mind to free up. But I’m past that now and everything’s fine.
My curiosity is definitely piqued about these “struggles.” But hey, as cliche as it is, I do believe that what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger — or at least build character.
Kudos to Brian Harman for finishing T2. He doesn’t get the credit, recognition or respect he deserves. He would also like the media to stop describing him as “diminutive.” When he told me that was a big pet peeve of his, I didn’t blame him one bit. I rarely read any stories during weeks like this because I’m already consumed in it, so I was pretty shocked to hear that. Perhaps the word “diminutive” sounds clever or something to the media peeps writing/saying that about Harman, but I was appalled. I mean, it’s condescending, at best, and I don’t blame him for getting annoyed with it. So, you guys are all on notice!
I encountered some unforeseen issues this week, particularly technical ones with WiFi. In short, the WiFi at our rental house doesn’t work consistently and when it does, it’s like we’re back in 1999 and using dial-up internet. So, apologies that I didn’t deliver with as much social media and livestream coverage as I promised at the start of the week, but I couldn’t do it on-site. However, I’m staying about a long par-4 from the grounds, so close enough!
Here’s a last-minute attempt at a Periscope livestream chat, but it was rather late… Thanks to those who tuned in, and as always, appreciate the continued support.
— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) June 19, 2017
I’ve gotta run — I actually won the “lottery” to play Erin Hills in the morning (if the weather cooperates — strong chance of t-storms all day, so fingers crossed.) I’ll write about the experience, though, and I think I should be allowed to livestream or live-Insta stuff, so stay tuned.
If you haven’t checked out me and Nikki B’s new podcast, catch up HERE. We have a bunch of guests lined up for next week, so we’re pumped for that. Also, if you have any suggestions of what we should name our podcast, we’re taking them! For now, we’re just going with “Wei Under Par” because we didn’t want to delay starting the pod any longer by trying to overthink things with a witty name and logo and all that jazz. We can take care of that with time, but again, we would love to come up with the PERFECT podcast name ASAP and we want witty and ironic. We can be reached via email, Twitter, Instagram, etc. — we’re really easy to get in touch with, so take your pick.
Thanks again for your continued support and we’re excited about the podcast going forward. This was our first week and we encountered some growing pains, but we’ve sorted most of them out. Although it feels like we’ve known each other forever and we’ve been reading each others’ minds and finishing sentences, etc., we only met in real life the past week. Good to know the chemistry is real. We’ve got big plans!
Random notes via the USGA:
Brooks Koepka’s 72-hole total of 272 is tied with four players for the third-lowest 72-hole score in U.S. Open history. The other four players are:
o JackNicklaus,272,(63-71-70-68),BaltusrolG.C.(LowerCourse),1993 o Lee Janzen, 272 (67-71-70-69), Baltusrol G.C. (Lower Course), 1980
o Jim Furyk, 272 (67-66-67-72), Olympia Fields C.C. (North Course), 2003 o The only U.S. Open champions to post lower 72-hole totals are:
Rory McIlroy, 268, (65-66-68-69), Congressional C.C. (Blue Course), 2011
Martin Kaymer, 271 (65-65-72-69), Pinehurst R. & C.C. (Course No. 2), 2014
Koepka’s 16-under ties McIlroy for the lowest 72-hole total in relation to par in the history of the championship.
o Only two other champions have posted double-digit-under-par scores for 72 holes: Rory McIlroy, 16-under 268, Congressional C.C. (Blue Course), 2011
Tiger Woods, 12-under 272, Pebble Beach G.L., 2000
This is the first time in the history of the U.S. Open that players other than the champion have finished 72 holes in double digits under par.
o At Erin Hills, seven players, including the champion, finished 10 strokes or more under par.
Brooks Koepka (-16)
Hideki Matsuyama (-12) Brian Harman (-12)
Tommy Fleetwood (-11) Xander Schauffele (-10) Bill Haas (-10)
Rickie Fowler (-10)
- This is Koepka’s fifth consecutive under-par round in the U.S. Open. In addition to his four sub- par rounds at Erin Hills, his final round at Oakmont in 2016 was a 2-under 68.
- Koepka and 2016 U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson shared similar player statistics in their winning performances. Both led the field in greens in regulation, but ranked T-51 and T-49 in total number of putts, respectively.o In addition, Koepka and Johnson had average drive distances of 322.1 yards and 317.1 yards, respectively, which measured approximately 20 yards farther than the previous three U.S. Open champions: Jordan Spieth, 2015, 296 yards; Martin Kaymer, 2014, 305.5 yards; and Justin Rose, 2013, 300.4 yards.
- Koepka is the first Florida-born U.S. Open champion.
- Koepka won the championship in his fifth U.S. Open appearance.o Koepka is the third champion in the last five years to win in his fifth appearance or sooner.
- Jordan Spieth won the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay in his fourth appearance.
- Webb Simpson won the 2012 U.S. Open at The Olympic Club in his second appearance.
Hideki Matsuyama’s 6-under fourth round score of 66 moved him from T-14 to co-runner-up. o This is the fifth top-10 finish by a Japanese player in U.S. Open history, and the highest
since Isao Aoki in 1980 at Baltusrol G.C. (Lower Course). o The previous four are:
Hideki Matsuyama, T-10, Merion G.C., 2013
Jumbo Ozaki, T-6, Oak Hill C.C., 1989
Tommy Nakajima, T-9, The Olympic Club, 1987 Isao Aoki, second, Baltusrol G.C., 1980
- This is the first time since 2000 that Americans have won three consecutive U.S. Opens (Lee Janzen ’98, Payne Stewart, ’99, Tiger Woods ’00).
- This is the largest total purse ($12,000,000) and winner’s share ($2,160,000) in U.S. Open history.
- The two amateurs who made the cut, Scottie Scheffler (who earned low-amateur honors) and Cameron Champ, finished T-27 and T-32, respectively.
o Cameron Champ led the field in driving distance over 72 holes, with an average of 337.3 yards.
Justin Thomas, who began the fourth round tied for second, followed up his record-breaking 9- under performance on Saturday with a 3-over 75, leaving him tied for ninth.
o He started the fourth round with bogeys on three of the first five holes.
- In the final round, Wisconsin residents Steve Stricker and Jordan Niebrugge shot 69 to finish tiedfor 16th, and 71 to finish tied for 35th, respectively.Course
- The previous record of sub-par 72-hole scores (28) set at Medinah C.C. (No. 3 Course) in 1990, was broken today with 31 players finishing the championship under par.
- The total number of sub-par rounds (140) posted during the championship surpassed the previous record of 122 from Medinah C.C. (No. 3 Course) in 1990.
o The record for sub-par scores in an individual U.S. Open round was broken in both the first and third round.
- 44 sub-par scores in the first round broke the previous record of 39 at Medinah C.C. (No. 3 Course) in 1990.
- 32 sub-par scores in the third round broke the previous record of 26 at Congressional C.C. in 2011.
o The second round yielded the second-most sub-par scores in U.S. Open history with 46. The record remains 47 from Medinah C.C. (No. 3 Course) in 1990.
Erin Hills yielded a record number of birdies (1,363).
o The previous record was 1,241 birdies in 2015 at Pinehurst R. & C.C. (Course No. 2) and
1994 at Oakmont (Pa.) C.C.
In the history of the U.S. Open there have been 61 rounds of 65 or better. This week, Erin Hills yielded five scores of 65 or better, the most since 2009 at Bethpage State Park (Black Course). o Only twice in the history of the championship has a course yielded five scores of 65 or
better during the U.S. Open:
2009 at Bethpage State Park (Black Course) 2003 at Olympia Fields C.C. (North Course)
Measuring 681 yards during the fourth round, No. 18 played as the second-longest hole in U.S. Open history.
o The longest remains the No. 12 at Oakmont C.C. for the first round in 2016.
o No. 18 played as the easiest hole in the first and fourth rounds, as well as overall, with a cumulative scoring average of 4.843, and yielded a total of 136 birdies and seven eagles.
The Erin Hills bunkers proved approximately as challenging as U.S. Open bunkers have since 2011.
o The cumulative percentage of sand saves for the field over 72 holes was 40 percent, while the average over the previous six years was 39.7 percent.
Wind gusts on Sunday reached over 30 mph, but didn’t affect play nearly as much as the windiest final round in recent U.S. Open history in 1992 at Pebble Beach G.L.
o On Sunday, only two players posted fourth-round scores 10 or more strokes higher than their third-round scores, compared to 11 players in 1992.
o Of the 68 players who teed off in the final round, five shot 80 or higher, compared to 20 in 1992.