Late surge lifts Koepka to major triumph
ERIN, Wis. – News and observations from Sunday's final round of the U.S. Open where Brooks Koepka shot a final-round 67 for a four-shot victory over Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman. For more of what unfolded at Erin Hills on Sunday, click here to read the Daily Wrap-up. KOEPKA SLAMS THE DOOR Brooks Koepka may be known for mashing drives like American League MVP Mike Trout, but it was his shortest club that separated him from the field on Sunday’s back nine. Koepka one-putted four consecutive holes to take a white-knuckled grip on the U.S. Open trophy. It started with a 9-foot par save at the par-3 13th that kept him tied for the lead. He then made birdie putts of 6 feet, 10 feet and 17 feet to reach 16 under and put the tournament out of reach. “That was kind of the meat of the tournament,” said Koepka’s instructor, Claude Harmon. Koepka parred the final two holes to tie the U.S. Open’s 72-hole scoring record (in relation to par). He finished four shots ahead of Hideki Matsuyama and 54-hole leader Brian Harman. The victory moved Koepka from 19th to fifth in the FedExCup standings. Koepka, who led the field in strokes gained: approach-to-the-green, finished third in both strokes gained: off-the-tee and strokes gained: putting. He started the final round one shot back of Harman but birdied the first two holes to take the lead. Koepka added another birdie with a 33-foot putt at the eighth hole. He lost his one-shot lead with a bogey at No. 10 and then parred the next two holes. Koepka missed his only green of the day at the par-3 13th and made what he called a “massive” par save. “The par save on 13, that built some confidence,” Koepka said. “That was kind of the changing point of the round for me.” Koepka got up-and-down from a greenside bunker for birdie at the par-5 14th, then hit his 150-yard approach shot at No. 15 to 10 feet. He called it one of his best shots of the week. The birdie at the par-3 17th ended any uncertainty about the tournament’s final result. “He birdied 14, 15, 16, and that was kind of lights out,” Harman said. “He went and won the golf tournament on the back nine.” ANOTHER BIG STAGE Koepka’s U.S. Open victory came with an added benefit. It likely clinched his first appearance in The Presidents Cup. Koepka jumped from ninth to fifth in the United States’ team standings. The top 10 on Sept. 4 will earn automatic selections for the team, which will compete against the International Team on Sept. 26-Oct. 1 at Liberty National. Koepka played his first Ryder Cup last year, going 3-1-0 in the United States’ victory at Hazeltine. He went 2-0 with Brandt Snedeker, winning a foursomes and four-ball match, then lost a four-ball match with Dustin Johnson. Koepka beat Masters champion Danny Willett, 5 and 4, in Sunday singles. Harman jumped from 13th to ninth in the standings after finishing T2 at Erin Hills. He’s never represented the United States in a professional competition, but he did play in the United States’ victories in the 2005 and 2009 Walker Cups. TWO PATHS TO T2 Hideki Matsuyama shot Sunday’s low round, while Harman couldn’t keep pace with Brooks Koepka’s late birdies. Matsuyama and Harman started Sunday separated by six shots, but ended the day tied for second at 12 under. Harman shot even-par 72 after starting the final round with a one-shot lead. He struggled from the tee, though, hitting just eight of 14 fairways. “I just wish I would have been able to put a little more pressure on the course. I didn’t drive it as well as I would’ve liked,” he said. It was his first top- 25 in eight majors. He’d missed the cut in five of his previous seven starts in golf’s Grand Slam events. His lack of prior success in these events provided little solace, though. “I don't believe in moral victories. I had an opportunity today and I didn't get it done,” said Harman, who beat Dustin Johnson to win the recent Wells Fargo Championship. Harman is No. 10 in the FedExCup. Matsuyma teed off more than an hour before the final group, and made birdie on five of his final eight holes to shoot 66 put pressure on the leaders. It was too little too late after starting the final round six shots off the lead, though. “I learned that I have to put four good rounds together,” said Matsuyama, who moved to No. 2 in the FedExCup. “I played two good rounds, but it wasn’t enough.” In addition to Sunday’s 66, he also fired a 65 in the second round. He was a combined 1 over in the other two rounds, firing a first-round 74 and a 71 on Saturday. BEST OF SOCIAL MEDIA ROOKIES BOOK RETURN TRIPS Xander Schauffele survived a sudden-death playoff just to earn a spot at Erin Hills. He made the most of the opportunity, finishing fifth in his first major championship. It not only matched the best finish of his PGA TOUR career, but earned him a return to this tournament. The top 10 finishers at Erin Hills earned exemptions into the 2018 U.S. Open. He broke par in three of four rounds to finish at 10-under 278 (66-73-70-69). That result catapulted him from No. 135 to No. 107 in the FedExCup. “I couldn't be happier. I shot 3 under on my last seven holes,” Schauffele said. “There is no better way to finish a tournament than that.” The U.S. Open’s Father’s Day finish was special for Schauffele, whose father, Stefan, is his coach. Stefan Schauffele played semi-pro soccer and was a competitive decathlete in Germany who moved to San Diego at age 23 after being hit head-on by a drunk driver. The accident left him blind in his left eye and ended his athletic career. He took up golf and became a scratch golfer within two years. Schauffele wasn’t the only PGA TOUR rookie to finish in the top 10. Trey Mullinax finished ninth after making birdies on the final three holes to fire 68. His top-10 at the U.S. Open came one week after he finished T18 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. He credited a motivational talk from his father, Chip, with helping him have two successful weeks. “(I was) just kind of in a bad spot, down in the dumps a little bit,” Mullinax said. “Me, my dad and coach and agent and everybody got together and surrounded me. (We) went back to the drawing board and went back to what I do well.” Mullinax moved from 139th to 123rd in the FedExCup. NOTES • Justin Thomas shot 75 on Sunday, 12 shots higher than his record-setting 63 in the third round. He made his only birdie of the day at No. 10. Thomas fell to T9, but still collected his first top-10 in his eighth major championship. “It wasn’t going to be like yesterday,” said Thomas, who hit half the greens in regulation Sunday. • Si Woo Kim, winner of THE PLAYERS Championship, finished T13. It was his third major start, and the first time he made the cut. Kim, who shot 75 on Sunday, finished at 6-under 282. This was just his second start since his victory at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Kim ranks 25th in the FedExCup. • Bill Haas’ T5 finish was his first top-20 in nine U.S. Open starts and just his second top-10 in a major. This was Haas’ 31st start in a major. • Brandt Snedeker’s T9 finish was his seventh top-20 in his past nine U.S. Open starts. He’s finished in the top 10 five times in that span. • University of Texas senior Scottie Scheffler finished T27 to earn low-amateur honors by a stroke over Texas A&M senior Cameron Champ, the long hitter who was in the top 10 through two rounds. Scheffler shot 1-under 287 (69-74-71-73). “I was trying to compete and see if I could win the golf tournament,” said Scheffler, who missed the cut at last year’s U.S. Open after shooting a first-round 69. “I thought it would be pretty cool winning the U.S. Open as an amateur, and that was my goal coming in. Coming into today, I realized I didn’t really have a shot anymore, but I still wanted to play my best golf and see what I could do.” Champ finished T32 at even-par 288 (70-69-73-76).
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