The big-hitting Brooks Koepka moved into golf’s major league at Erin Hills, storming clear down the closing stretch to win the U.S. Open by four shots with a record-equalling score of 16 under par.
Koepka had long been thought of as a potential major champion and showed exactly why on Sunday with a near flawless performance, which saw him defy gusting winds early in his round and then capitalise on the return of calmer conditions on the back nine.
After birdieing his first two holes to claim the lead, the immensely powerful 27-year-old was joined at the summit by overnight leader Brian Harman, who looked set to push his fellow American all the way as the final groups moved past the turn.
However, Harman eventually stumbled with back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13 and his rival found peak form at the perfect moment – birdieing three holes in a row from the 14th to all but wrap up the tournament.
Two closing pars meant Koepka completed a 67 and matched the previous record score to par in a U.S. Open, Rory McIlroy’s 16-under winning total at Congressional in 2011.
A dominant performance.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 19, 2017
Harman (72) had to settle for a share of second with world number four Hideki Matsuyama, who climbed to 12 under courtesy of a closing 66, while England’s Tommy Fleetwood (72) rounded out the top four.
By the time Matsuyama – six behind at the start of the final round – rolled in his eighth birdie of the day on the 18th, he was just one adrift of Koepka, who had five holes still to complete.
Yet the leader immediately got up and down for birdie from a greenside bunker at the par-five 14th and then picked up another shot at 15, which played as the hardest hole on the course on Sunday, to move three clear with as many holes to play.
If any doubt remained over who was going to succeed Dustin Johnson as the winner of the year’s second major, Koepka ensured his victory was inevitable by rolling in yet another birdie on the par-three 16th.
A staggering 379-yard drive with a three-wood gave the champion-in-waiting a great chance of setting a new scoring benchmark on the par-five 18th. He could not make a four, but is unlikely to care one jot.
Harman had looked calm and collected as he mixed a solitary birdie with eight pars on the front nine.
However, a rare wild drive at 12 led to his first bogey in 27 holes and another dropped shot at the next effectively ended his hopes of becoming the first left-handed U.S. Open champion.
Xander Schauffele rounded off a stunning breakthrough week with a 69 that earned a share of fifth place with Bill Haas (69) and Rickie Fowler (72), who again flattered to deceive on the final day of a major.
A day on from shooting a record-breaking nine-under 63, Justin Thomas went round in 75 to finish tied-ninth, while Patrick Reed (74) also failed to challenge.
Scottie Scheffler (73) pipped Cameron Champ (76) to the low amateur honours with a one-under aggregate total and Jordan Spieth closed with an encouraging 69 to end the week one over.
— USGA (@USGA) June 18, 2017