Back-to-back US Opens for Koepka

Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka celebrates with the US Open trophy.

Brooks Koepka has won his second consecutive US Open title with a brilliant exhibition of ball-striking and short-game prowess at Shinnecock Hills today.

The uncomplicated Koepka, playing the final round with his close friend Dustin Johnson, never looked fussed or bothered, which is his way.

The 28-year-old closed with two-under par 68 to become just the seventh back-to-back winner and the first since Curtis Strange in 1988-89. Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones are among those to have done it, which is excellent company.

Koepka (one-over par overall) beat England’s Tommy Fleetwood, who closed with a dazzling 63, by a shot on a day when Shinnecock played a good deal friendlier. The world No. 9 from Florida is plainly back to his best after he broke down with a wrist injury that ruined his 2017 beyond his victory in the US Open at Erin Hills.

Started in a share at three-over, he took the lead on the back nine and cruised in, even making a long bogey putt at the 11th. He never missed a putt from inside five feet all week, 44-from-44 overall, and he put the hammer down with a gorgeous wedge shot to a metre for a birdie at the 16th hole, where he grew his lead to two shots.

He made a steady par at the 17th and momentarily wobbled with a pulled approach that hit the grandstand on the 18th, but he hit a nerveless pitch shot on to the green and two-putted for bogey, which was enough to finish it.

European No. 1 Fleetwood had earlier become just the sixth man to post a 63 in US Open history, to put a two-over score in the clubhouse and give himself a big chance.

Fleetwood started with a bomb for birdie on the second, made four birdies in five holes on the front nine then four in a row on the back nine to give himself a chance. He had good opportunities at the 16th, 17th and 18th as well, his left-to-right curler on the last from just inside three metres just ducking under the hole and denying him a 62. “I wanted a 62,’’ he said. “There’s nothing I can do now.’’

It was not enough.

Four players began the final day at three-under and in the lead. Koepka’s weight-room buddy Johnson undid himself with a string of three-putts, and ended up third, two shots back at three-over par. Tony Finau and Daniel Berger played in the final group but Berger was never in the hunt from early in the day, and Finau came up just short, messing up the 18th hole with a drive into the fescue.

In any case, Koepka had it covered. He is a monstrous ball-striker and he has intellectual property that dates to his early days as a pro, when he eschewed the traditional American path and headed off to Europe, playing the Challenge Tour and then the main European Tour, where he was rookie of the year in 2014.

Koepka plays quickly and does not overthink. He never complained about Shinnecock, at least publicly, even when it was crazy-tough on Saturday afternoon. Quietly and efficiently,  he got the job done with an over-par score.

Aaron Baddeley was the best-placed Australian in 25th place after a closing 69 that included four birdies. Marc Leishman was near the lead partway through the third round before a four-putt triple bogey unravelled him, and he finished 45th after a 74 today.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,’’ Koepka said afterward. “This is incredible. I don’t think I could’ve dreamed of this, going back-to-back. It’s truly special, and I’m so honoured.’’

The Open returns to Pebble Beach in California next year.

US OPEN SCORES

281 Brooks Koepka (USA)
282 Tommy Fleetwood (England)
283 Dustin Johnson (USA)
284 Patrick Reed (USA)
285   Tony Finau (USA)

THE AUSTRALIANS

292 Aaron Baddeley (T25)
295 Marc Leishman (T45)