US Open Golf 2019: Gary Woodland Holds Off Brooks Koepka for 1st Major Title

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2019

Gary Woodland watches his tee shot on the first hole during the final round of the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The majors during the 2019 season have been all about golf royalty with all-time legend Tiger Woods winning the Masters and world No. 1 Brooks Koepka capturing the PGA Championship.

It was time for some new blood at the U.S. Open.

Gary Woodland won his first career major title at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California, with a two-under 69 in Sunday's final round. The score brought his tournament total to 13-under and three strokes ahead of Koepka, who finished as the runner-up after winning the past two U.S. Opens.

Here is a look at the top finishers:

1. Gary Woodland, -13

2. Brooks Koepka, -10

T3. Xander Schauffele, -7

T3. Jon Rahm, -7

T3. Chez Reavie, -7

T3. Justin Rose, -7

T7. Adam Scott, -6

T7. Louis Oosthuizen, -6

T9. Henrik Stenson, -5

T9. Chesson Hadley, -5

T9. Rory McIlroy, -5

The full leaderboard can be found at the PGA Tour's official website.

Woodland's win was all the more remarkable considering he had never finished better than a tie for 23rd place at his previous eight U.S. Opens. The 35-year-old hadn't even finished in the top 10 of a major until the 2018 PGA Championship, which Koepka happened to win.

It appeared as if Woodland would be squaring off with Justin Rose in addition to Koepka at the start of Sunday's round. Woodland held a one-stroke lead over Rose through 54 holes, and they were both looking to hold off Rory McIlroy and Koepka, among others.

McIlroy entered the final round five strokes off the lead and had the opportunity to make a move before he dug himself an early hole with a double bogey on No. 2. He was uneven from there with three birdies and two bogeys on the rest of the front nine and never found his footing to make a legitimate push before a double bogey on No. 16 sent him tumbling down the leaderboard for good.

The same cannot be said about Koepka, who logically served as the biggest threat to the 54-hole leaders given his recent dominance. He won his second straight PGA Championship in May after he became just the seventh golfer in history to win back-to-back U.S. Opens the past two years.

He had been lurking this entire tournament and made his charge in the early going Sunday with birdies on four of the opening five holes. He looked to be on cruise control to his second major of the year and fifth since the start of the 2017 season but couldn't keep up the blistering pace and finished with a three-under 68.

However, Rose did some of his work for him and fell as Koepka climbed.

Rose shot even par on the front nine while others made their moves and fell well off the pace with bogeys on Nos. 12, 13 and 15. That made it a two-man race because, unlike Rose, Woodland did not back down when the two-time reigning champion dialed up the pressure.

The eventual champion was a steady one-under on the front nine and extended his lead to two with a birdie on No. 14 and tricky par save on No. 15. Koepka missed a birdie putt on No. 18 that would have trimmed the deficit to one and applied more pressure, which coincided with Woodland's shot of the tournament on No. 17.

The American had to chip from the fringe and well away from the hole for his second shot on the par-three 17th. A mishit would have put him in position for a bogey at best, but he put it feet from the hole and saved par and any stress on his final hole.

Woodland made his mark Sunday, but the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach will forever be synonymous with Tiger Woods.

The 15-time major winner did not move closer to Jack Nicklaus' record of 18 but gave fans a glimpse of his greatness in the closing stretch of the final round. He shot a two-under 69 for his best round of the tournament thanks to a late spurt with birdies on Nos. 7, 8, 13, 14, 16 and 18 after he was an ugly plus-four through six holes.

His two-under for the tournament wasn't the dominant performance he unleashed at this course in 2000 when he won the U.S. Open by a record 15 strokes, but it gave Woods something to build on headed toward The Open Championship in July.

"Just keep fighting," he said of his round, per Bill Speros of Golfweek. "Just because I got off to a bad start doesn't mean it's over. Keep grinding, keep playing. And I was able to turn my round around today as well as yesterday. So rounds that could have easily slipped away and kind of gone the other way pretty easily I was able it to turnaround."

Woods wasn't the only one chasing Nicklaus' record, as Viktor Hovland broke the Golden Bear's 72-hole scoring record for an amateur in U.S. Open history.

Hovland shot a four-under 67 in the final round to bring his tournament total to four-under. Todd Kelly of Golfweek noted he became the first golfer to finish as the low-scoring amateur at both the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year since Matt Kuchar did so in 1998.

Perhaps one day he will be a first-time major winner as well, but Sunday belonged to Woodland.

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