By Jay Betsill
Brooks Koepka became only the third man since World War II and first since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win consecutive U.S. Open championships when he successfully defended his title Sunday at Shinnecock Hills in Southhampton, NY.
In winning last year at Erin Hills, Koepka dominated en route to a 16-under winning score. This year was an entirely different story as Shinnecock Hills and specifically the USGA’s fast and firm setup of the historic venue yielded a triumphant 1-over par score.
“This week is just back to a typical U.S. Open, where 1 over par wins the golf tournament,” said Koepka, who finished as runner-up to Justin Rose last month at the Fort Worth Invitational at Colonial Country Club. “It’s just a lot of grinding. But I couldn’t be happier with the way I played.”
A champion and his 🏆
Congrats to Brooks Koepka on another performance to remember! pic.twitter.com/EtyRJf9K7r
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 17, 2018
Koepka earned $2.16 million for the victory and will move up to No. 4 in the world rankings.
Tommy Fleetwood began the final round six shots back after his third round 78 and vaulted up the leader board on Sunday thanks to his tournament record-tying 63. He missed a putt on No. 18 that would have given him the lowest round in U.S. Open history and tied him with Branden Grace for the lowest round in major championship history.
Fleetwood wound up in second place, one shot behind Koepka.
Dustin Johnson finished third, followed by Masters champion Patrick Reed in fourth.
U.S. Open Controversy
Heading into Sunday’s final round, the talk of the week centered around controversy, namely the USGA’s botching of the course setup and Saturday and Phil Mickleson’s hitting a ball while it was still moving on No. 13 on Saturday.
The extreme variance during the third round where the golf course did not play the same in the afternoon as it did in the morning wave came on the heels of USGA executive director proclaiming that there would not be the same setup issues that Shinnecock Hills endured during the 2004 U.S. Open.
The disparity was so great that Daniel Berger and Tony Finau began the day in 45th place, shot matching 66s in the morning and finished the day in a tie for the lead and in the final pairing, teeing off behind Dustin Johnson and Koepka.
Davis went on the FOX broadcast and admitted they had erred in the course preparation and it drew the ire of many players.
Ian Poulter was among those who were outspoken about the setup on his Twitter.
Is that an apology ?
Just grow a set of balls and say we £€¥#ed it up again…
You don’t get mulligan’s in business at this level. how can this team keep doing this without consequences. https://t.co/INvUmT6M6P
— Ian Poulter (@IanJamesPoulter) June 17, 2018
Mickelson’s bizarre act followed by a defiant explanation had many calling for the five-time major champion to be disqualified, but he ended up getting a two-stroke penalty and carded a 10 on the 13th on his way to a third round 81 on his 48th birthday. Mickelson fired a final round 69 to finish at 16-over for the event.
There were many familiar faces that had the weekend including four of the top 10 in the world and one of the biggest names in all of sports.
Playing in a marquee group alongside No.1 Dustin Johnson and No. 2 Justin Thomas. Tiger Woods shot 10-over for his first two days and missed the cut in the tenth and final year of his U.S. Open exemption from his 2008 victory at Torrey Pines.
“You don’t win major championships by kind of slapping it all over the place and missing putts,” Woods said, after Friday’s round. “You have to be on. You can’t fake it.”
2011 U.S. Open winner Rory McIlroy fired an opening round 80 followed by a second round 70 to match Woods’ 10-over and miss the cut.
2015 U.S. Open champion Jordan Spieth bogeyed his final two holes on Friday and missed the cut by one shot.
Jon Rahm and Jason Day joined them as top-10 players who missed the cut.
Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Martin Kaymer and Bubba Watson were other notables who missed the cut.