Brooks Koepka holds his nerve on the last hole. The area around the greens is closely mowed and forces the world's best to place their approach shots in small landing areas on the greens lest they run off into collection areas. He played in the afternoon wind tunnel Thursday, the spitting morning rain Friday and then the baked-out moonscape late Saturday. Many refer to it as a "Mickey Mouse" setup, and by all accounts on the USGA's side of things, it was, but Shinnecock's Jon Jennings and his crew had not lost their golf course.
The 28-year-old American fired a two-under-par 68 and with a one-over par total he won by one shot from Tommy Fleetwood, whose 63 equalled the championship's lowest round. The course played almost a shot easier on average than it did on any other day this week. So Shinnecock Hills was relatively tame in the final round.
The world number nine is the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win back-to-back US Open titles. And unlike at Erin Hills, where he pulled away late with birdies, it was his par (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. "Similar to the preparation we took for round 1, green speeds will be, on average, 10-12 inches slower than rounds 2 and 3".
But just as it seemed he had grabbed the championship by the throat he misjudged his tee shot at the par-three 11th and watched his ball rocket over the crowned green and hurtle way beyond into rough. "I knew what it was for", said Fleetwood. "Because it could have been a big momentum shift there, and we could have been playing tennis just going back and forth". Two holes later, after another drive into grass so thick he wasn't sure he could get it out, Koepka rolled in an 8-foot for another par save.More news: Rudy Giuliani Says Mueller Probe Must Be Suspended 'Tomorrow' After DOJ Report
In all, Johnson took 14 more putts over the weekend than Koepka, who leads him with two major victories to one.
He finished at 1-over 281, 13 shots higher than his winning score at Erin Hills past year. Anyone who wanted the U.S. Open trophy would have to pry it out of his clenched, brawny arms. The elder Mr. Edwards just returned from a golf trip to the Dominican Republic, and he and his son said they enjoyed the action at Shinnecock both yesterday and today. "I think that's why he's so good now, the competitiveness that he's had to go through with myself and my dad". Did it ever. Not only did Fleetwood shoot 63, but the whole field had a better day. And at the end of the day, I got within one of winning, when I was so far back at the start of the day.
Dustin Johnson, part of the four-way tie for the lead to start the final round, had an even-par 70 to finish alone in third. "But as my career goes, it might be disappointing now when you think you could have won one".
"When you finish, you always feel like you're going to be a bit short, but we'll see", Fleetwood said after finishing long before Koepka. "He was busy grinding his tail off and I was busy grinding mine. I just love getting up for it and playing the best and playing really, really hard golf courses". His career path shows a consistent upward curve and he's building on the times he's come close rather than letting the near misses destroy him.
Strange, in fact, said he has no reason to believe Koepka can not win a third in a row - which only Scotland's Willie Anderson has ever done (from 1903-05) and something he tried so badly to do but failed in 1990. Next year: Pebble Beach.