High-class leaderboard spares USGA's blushes at U.S. Open

Brooks Koepka is looking to make it back-to-back in golf's national championship

Brooks Koepka is looking to make it back-to-back in golf's national championship

Tommy Fleetwood put together one of the six best rounds in U.S. Open on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

But, alongside his obvious raw power, the 28 year old was nerveless on the greens and deserved to join Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89) as the only players in the last 75 years to complete a successful defence.

1 Koepka's tee-to-green game is terrific, but don't overlook his putting.

He was in trouble when he hit a wedge into the fescue left of the 11th green, especially when he and his caddie, Ricky Elliott, arrived at the ball and looked down to find it nesting in long grass that was pointing away from the green. "If they're best buddies, that's (what's) standing between me and the trophy".

He wasn't through. He hacked out of the hay over the green at No. 12, pitched beautifully to 7 feet, and made the par. Then he lofted his sand shot about 12 feet and proceeded to stroke the putt in so confidently that it rattled.

"Hopefully I will get there, and hopefully I'll win one or more than one", Fleetwood said.

2 Koepka's outsized will comes from his family.

It's no secret that the USGA butchered the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.

"Unfortunately, I haven't done it as much in regular tour events or throughout my career", Koepka said. Koepka missed the Masters due to a serious wrist injury that kept him out for almost four months.

Unusual was two strokes off the lead heading into the final round in 1990 and finished 21st.


"We didn't really speak too much, " Koepka said. "I feel like you got to kind of take it from me, to be honest with you", he said. His career path shows a consistent upward curve and he's building on the times he's come close rather than letting the near misses destroy him. "It's a very competitive family".

That Koepka prevailed on two wildly different layouts, and in totally different conditions, was even more satisfying. Phil Mickelson had a Saturday to disremember as well, and four of the game's top-10 players didn't make it to the weekend. "It doesn't matter what it is".

There were still plenty of high scores, but an average of 72.2 on the par-70 course suggested the set-up had been just about right, though it was helped by winds that did not blow quite as strongly as the previous day.

"It's hard not to", Koepka said.

But Koepka steadied himself and ground his way home in the traditional style of a U.S. Open victor, making par on six of the last seven holes and birdieing the par-5 15th to give himself some breathing room. "You see how talented he is". "There's only one more thing I can do, and that is to win a major".

Tommy Fleetwood (solo second, one back) shot a final-round 63 that could easily have been better, were it not for missed birdie putts on his closing holes.

Reed drilled home three birdie putts from seven, nine and four feet, respectively, on the first three holes.

Koepka, with a performance and a demeanor reminiscent of Retief Goosen winning at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, began the back nine with three pivotal putts - one for birdie, one for bogey, one for par.

Koepka had the swagger of a linebacker and the face of a rock formation, and he needed both to deal with the various pressures of this Open.

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