The streak of first-time major winners has now reached seven in a row after Brooks Koepka, a hard-hitting Florida native who had won only once previously on the PGA TOUR, captured the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills, near Milwaukee, on June 18.
Navigating breezy conditions with pure ball striking Koepka pulled away from a battle with Brian Harman to win by four strokes over the diminutive left-hander and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. The soft-spoken Koepka completed 72 holes in 16-under 272, tying the championship scoring record in relation to par Rory McIlroy set in 2011 at Congressional CC in Bethesda, Md. He is the seventh first-time major winner in a row, a run that started with Jason Day at the 2015 PGA Championship.
Harman, trying to become the first lefty to win the U.S. Open, began the day one stroke ahead of Koepka, England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Thomas – who set the scoring record in relation to par Saturday with a 9-under 63 – but fell back with a pair of back-nine bogeys and ended up with an even-par 72 to share runner-up honors at 12 under with Matsuyama, who closed with a 66.
“I felt like I was playing some of the best golf I’ve ever played,” said Koepka, who led the field in greens in regulation and averaged 317 yards off the tee. “All around, my game was pretty solid, and if you can go around here without making a double bogey, then you’re doing all right.”
Ranked 22nd in the world entering the week, Koepka, 27, emerged from a leaderboard that was crowded with contenders who never had won a major title. He became the eighth champion in the last 11 years to make the U.S. Open his first major victory. It was just his fourth professional title and second in America, but it yielded the biggest first prize in golf history, $2.16 million. He also won the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal as well as the U.S. Open trophy.
Fleetwood, also shooting 72, ended up fourth at 277, while first-round sensation Xander Schauffele, a PGA Tour rookie playing in his first major, closed with a 69 to share fifth place at 278 with Bill Haas, who also had 69, and Rickie Fowler, the first-round leader, who settled for 72. Thomas, meanwhile bogeyed three of his first five holes and made only one birdie in a 75 to fall to T-9. He had made nine birdies and an eagle the day prior.
Koepka and Harman were tied through 11 holes until the left-hander suffered consecutive bogeys. Then Koepka pulled away with a brilliant stretch of putting that started when he saved par at the 13th with a nine-footer. Then he reeled off three birdies in a row to match McIlroy’s mark.
“I played with him at the Memorial two weeks ago. He's just really impressive physically. Just pounds the ball,” said Bill Haas, who ended up T-5. “He's got a lot of Dustin Johnson in him – just long and straight. And he's going to overpower golf courses, and he's got a great demeanor. He's just like Dustin, I would say. They're very much a similar player, where nothing seems to bother them. And it's no surprise. You watch him hit, it's a little different than most of us out here.”
Matsuyama, who also shot a second-round 65, was one of five past Memorial Tournament winners to finish in the top-25 at Erin Hills. The others were Matt Kuchar and Steve Stricker, who tied for 16th, David Lingmerth, who finished 21st, and Jim Furyk who was among the players at T-23.