Koepka caps it off
Historic final-round run allows Brooks Koepka to claim first major

By GIDAL KAISER - Daily News

June 19, 2017

Brooks Koepka during the trophy presentation of the U.S. Open golf tournament Sunday, June 18, 2017, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.
Photo by John Ehlke/Daily News
>>View slideshow of Final Round of US Open Tournament

TOWN OF ERIN — As he stepped to the makeshift awards podium on the No. 18 green at Erin Hills on Sunday, the trophy awarded to the U.S. Open Championship victor in his hands, Brooks Koepka dedicated his win at the 117th U.S. Open to his father, Bob.

“That's probably one of the coolest things I've ever experienced and to do it on Father's Day it's pretty neat,” Koepka joked later at a news conference. “I didn't exactly get my dad a card, so this works.”

The 27-year-old became the third consecutive American to win the championship by bludgeoning the course during the final round, carding a five-under 67 to finish with a 16-under-par 272. His final 72-hole score of 16 under tied a record set by Rory McIlroy during the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

“That's awesome. I think it's really cool,” Koepka said. “It hasn't sunk in, obviously, yet, and probably won't for a few days.”

Koepka came into the day amongst a quintet of players that were at 10-under or better, and was seemingly the only one to withstand a fierce, day-long win and the slightly drier conditions because of the gusts.

“Obviously the wind picked up and I felt like that played right in my hand. Good ball-striker, good putter,” Koepka said. “And I felt confident all week. So to feel as confident as I did on a Sunday of a major and coming down the stretch was pretty neat."

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who vaulted from 82nd into the top 10 during Saturday's third round, shot a round-best six-under-par 66 to vault into a tie for second with Brian Harman. Harman, the third-round leader at minus-12, shot an even-par 72. He balanced three birdie and three bogeys through his round.

“It bites a little bit right now,” Harman said after his round. “But Brooks played so well today. The conditions were so tough. Was 5-under the round of the day, him and Hideki, I guess? So next to last group and you shoot the lowest round of the day, that's tough, that's tough.

Had a couple get away from me today, but at the same time, I can't take anything away from how well (Koepka) played.”

Koepka seized the championship with a 10-foot putt on No. 15 to drop to minus-15 for the U.S. Open. It was the second of three consecutive birdies from holes No. 14-16, and dropped him to minus-16. The Florida State graduate noted he glanced at the leaderboard before his birdie putt on 14, which took him to 13 under and the outright lead.

“I saw I could have a two-shot lead if I made that. I did see that,” Koepka said. “But I don't know if it had come up that (Harman) bogeyed yet (on 13). It might have been just if he parred it. But I was just trying to make that putt, give myself as big a cushion as I could.”

Harman came back with a birdie on the par-5 No.14 to drop to 1-over, then sank a birdie on the par-3 No. 16 to get back to even.

With Koepka ahead of him and occasional looks at the leaderboard, Harman knew his back-nine birdie saves weren't going to be enough.

“I made the birdie right there at 14 … then he birdied 14, 15, 16, and that was kind of lights out,” Harman said. “I was pretty content making pars on the front nine because I knew the kind of day it was. I mean, you've got to tip your cap. He went and won the golf tournament on the back nine.”

While the toned-down Florida native gave fist pumps at the end of each back-nine birdie, he noted a save on the No. 13 par-3 hole that kept him at minus-2 for the day and minus-13 overall was where he found his momentum swing.

“The par save on 13. I think that built some confidence,” Koepka said. “When that happened it did give me a lot of confidence. So I think that was kind of the changing point of the round for me.”

The par save led into the run of birdies, a giant silver trophy and a hefty paycheck.

“I thought the way my game set up I think I can win multiple times a year, I really do,” Koepka said. “And I think this is hopefully major number one and there's many more to come.”