Two heavyweight golfers slugged it out in the final round of the 119th U.S. Open on Sunday, and when it was over, Gary Woodland had earned the first major championship of his career by getting the best of Pebble Beach and winning the third major championship of the year by three strokes over two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka.
Woodland had moved to the lead by the end of the second round, and he continued to maintain his advantage after 54 holes. That was not necessarily good news for Woodland, because he had failed to win in seven previous opportunities when he had the lead after three rounds.
That would not be the case this time, as he continued to execute the way he did in the first three rounds. So did Koepka, and they were the last two left standing as the round came to its climax.
Justin Rose, who was paired with Woodland for the final round, struggled Sunday, and so did golfers like Louis Oosthuizen, Chez Reavie, Rory McIlroy and Chesson Hadley.
The 35-year-old Woodland had a two-stroke lead as he came to the par-three 17th hole, and he hit his tee shot on the green. However, his shot barely reached the front of the putting surface, and he was more than 90 feet away from the flagstick.
He had a choice of putting the ball or taking his pitching wedge and lofting a shot from the green toward the flag. Since a putt would have forced him to swing near the edge of the green and possibly off it, Woodland struck the ball with his pitching wedge.
He hit a sensational shot, and as it landed, it appeared to be headed toward the flagstick. While it did not go in the hole, he was left with a tap-in for his par, and he maintained his two-stroke lead.
"I knew it was a difficult shot, but I decided to hit the wedge," Woodland told Fox analyst and former U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange after the round's conclusion. "I figured I would take my medicine and take a four (bogey) if I had to, but I knew it was a good shot and it worked out."
Koepka went for the par-five 18th in two, and he struck a powerful 3-iron shot that appeared right on line for the flag. However, he was just a bit too strong, and his shot went over the green and was caught up in some thick grass, and he failed to make his eagle or birdie attempt.
Woodland finished his round by reaching the green in three and then nailing his birdie putt to finish at 13 under par, three strokes better than Koepka.
Top 10 finishers in the U.S. Open ($12,500,000) and payouts (courtesy of Golf World)
1. Gary Woodland (-13), $2,250,000
2: Brooks Koepka (-10), $1,350,000
T3: Xander Schauffele (-7), $581,872
T3: Jon Rahm (-7), $581,872
T3: Chez Reavie (-7), $581,872
T3: Justin Rose (-7), $581,872
T7: Adam Scott (-6), $367,387
T7: Louis Oosthuizen (-6), $367,387
T9: Henrik Stenson (-5), $288,715
T9: Chesson Hadley (-5), $288,715
T9: Rory McIlroy (-5), $288,715
Here's a link to the tournament's final scoreboard.