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Brooks Koepka Overcomes Difficult Course to Win US Open for 2nd Straight Year

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2018

SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 17:  Brooks Koepka of the United States plays his shot from the ninth tee during the final round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 17, 2018 in Southampton, New York.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

All hail the U.S. Open king, Brooks Koepka.

Koepka defended his crown at the year's second major, becoming the first golfer to repeat as champion since Curtis Strange in 1989. Koepka achieved the feat with a two-under 68 in Sunday's final round, finishing one over for the tournament at the challenging Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York.

He was part of a four-way tie for first place entering the final round with Dustin Johnson, Daniel Berger and Tony Finau and edged Tommy Fleetwood, who shot a seven-under 63 on Sunday.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Back-to-back #USOpen titles for @BKoepka. https://t.co/7dHvuk5qyL

Here is a look at the top finishers, while the entire leaderboard is available at USOpen.com.

1. Brooks Koepka, +1

2. Tommy Fleetwood, +2

3. Dustin Johnson, +3

4. Patrick Reed, +4

5. Tony Finau, +5

T6. Xander Schauffele, +6

T6. Tyrrell Hatton, +6

T6. Henrik Stenson, +6

T6. Daniel Berger, +6

T10. Webb Simpson, +7

T10. Justin Rose, +7

   

Koepka Brilliantly Executes Game Plan to Survive Tough Course

Karen Crouse of the New York Times pointed out Koepka is typically "known for being long off the tee and aggressive into the greens" but was more cautious at this U.S. Open.

It paid off with another championship.

"I enjoy firing away from pins and having to be conservative sometimes and just finding a way to get through it," he said, per Crouse.

The approach worked perfectly on the par-five 16th. He put himself in ideal position after two shots, and his third ended with the ball mere feet from the hole. The birdie created a two-stroke lead.

trey wingo @wingoz

The most impressive thing about Koepka’s back to back Opens? The first came in a birdie fest the 2nd came at a torture test.

Kelly Tilghman @KellyTilghmanGC

He doesn’t crave the spotlight. He shies away from the limelight. It’s an absolute delight watching Brooks Koepka play golf.

Skip Bayless @RealSkipBayless

While so many of golf's stars were bellyaching about how unfair the course got on Saturday, Brooks Koepka relied on his greatest strength: being "chill." He shrugs and hits another sensational escape shot.

He needed it, as one of his three bogeys came on the final hole. Koepka received some luck on the 18th when his second shot bounced off the bottom of the grandstand and caromed toward the green rather than finding an obstacle or the thick fescue.

Koepka chipped the ball onto the green and two-putted for the championship.

His finishing stretch was in stark contrast to those of Johnson, who recorded bogeys on Nos. 11, 14 and 17, and Patrick Reed, who did the same on Nos. 11, 12 and 18. Finau dug himself too deep a hole with four bogeys on the front nine, and Berger did the same with three bogeys on the front nine. Koepka, meanwhile, notched three birdies on the first five holes.

Fleetwood applied the most pressure, finishing with a head-turning score at the start of the day and waiting in the clubhouse, safe from the daunting features of Shinnecock. His two-over finish for the tournament was looming large for the likes of Koepka, Johnson and Reed throughout their final rounds.

According to the Fox broadcast, Fleetwood tied the mark for lowest 18-hole score at a U.S. Open with Justin Thomas, Johnny Miller, Vijay Singh, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Inches away from #USOpen history. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/oxyINVzWEo

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

.@TommyFleetwood1 made 7 birdies thru the first three rounds. He's made 8 birdies today. #LiveUnderPar https://t.co/NdvUHkhMuH

Alas, his 78 in the third round was too much to overcome, especially with the steady Koepka setting the pace.

   

Despite Controversy, US Open Doesn't Need to Alter Shinnecock Course

With all due respect to Koepka, the dominant storyline of the tournament was the course, as Shinnecock added a layer of intrigue even if it frustrated some golfers.

Gusty winds, thick fescue and difficult greens created conditions in which par was a championship-level score and put the majority of the field out of its comfort zone. A mere three players broke par Saturday, leading to criticism from Zach Johnson and Ian Poulter:

ESPN @espn

Sitting at +8 through three rounds, Zach Johnson isn't pleased with the US Open course conditions. https://t.co/lKLMAWeR48

Ian Poulter @IanJamesPoulter

Thanks guys did Bozo set the course up or are the @USGA going to accept responsibility or just say “IF WE HAD A MULLIGAN” I would have liked about 6 mulligans today. But they are not allowed at this level. “Apparently” https://t.co/O08vOpNlTx

LPGA Tour player Christina Kim had a different way of looking at it:

Christina Kim @TheChristinaKim

LOL I love how the men are losing their minds over Shinnecock, but at least their course had green grass everywhere and they’re not playing in a bog with mud balls left and right. And yet the girls didn’t go into an uproar.

While there is no arguing with the brilliance of PGA Tour players and their shot-making abilities, nothing but birdies and pars weekend after weekend can grow monotonous.

The challenges of Shinnecock tested the mental toughness of the players and put additional importance on each shot.

Things were a bit easier Sunday, as Steve DiMeglio of USA Today noted the USGA adjusted some pin locations and added water to the greens before the final round, but birdies were still far more valuable than they usually are.

According to the U.S. Open's website, the event won't return to Shinnecock until 2026. Having the occasional major with a course that serves as an additional test to overcome besides the rest of the field makes the champion all the more deserving.

Koepka was Sunday.

   

What's Next?

The next tournament on the PGA schedule is the Travelers Championship in Cromwell, Connecticut, that starts Thursday, but The Open Championship from July 19-22 is the next event on the major calendar. Koepka conquered Shinnecock but will have to stare down another loaded field at The Open Championship to add to his major collection.

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