After Saturday’s third round of the U.S. Open, the United States Golf Association admitted Shinnecock Hills had gotten too difficult even for the best players on earth so they vowed to slow it down.
The USGA was true to its word and Brooks Koepka took advantage of a much kinder course to repeat as U.S. Open champion. Koepka finished the week at 1-over par to beat Tommy Fleetwood by one shot.
Interestingly, it was the difficulty of the afternoon on Long Island on Saturday that helped him get into contention in the first place.
Koepka made the cut by one stroke and was able to get out early on Saturday when the course was manageable. He shot a 66 and then watched the winds pick up in the afternoon. By the time the last few groups teed off Shinnecock Hills had become a golfing nightmare.
Dustin Johnson, the only man under par after two rounds, shot a 77 to fall into a four-way tie for the lead with Koepka, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau.
On Sunday, the USGA made sure not to let that happen again and Koepka, playing in the penultimate group with Johnson, was able to play a legitimate round of golf to win his second career major.
Koepka fired a 2-under 68, a fantastic final round, and it was nearly not enough. Fleetwood went bonkers with a course-record 63 that ties the tournament single-round scoring record.
Last year Koepka won at Erin Hills at 16-under par, tying the record for the lowest winning score in U.S. Open history. The fact he won it this year at 1-over shows how drastically the USGA can alter a tournament — and proves that Koepka has the game to win under any conditions.
He’s the first repeat champion at the U.S. Open since Curtis Strange won in 1988 and 1989. The last man to pull off back-to-back Open wins before that was the legendary Ben Hogan in 1950 and 1951.
At the age of 28, Koepka is also just the fourth man to win a pair of U.S. Opens before the age of 30. The others?
Jack Nicklaus, Ernie Els, and Tiger Woods. That is not bad company to be in.
His chance to make it a three-peat (which has never been done in the modern era) comes next year at Pebble Beach.