Brooks Koepka of West Palm Beach, Fla. smiles as he
raises the U.S. Open trophy Sunday afternoon after the
final round of the 117th U.S. Open Championship at Erin
Hills in the town of Erin. Koepka won after finishing
with a 16-under-par 272.
John Ehlke/Daily News
TOWN OF ERIN — He thought
about giving up the game in 2013, just
before he qualified for the European Tour.
Brooks Koepka also considered
himself, five years out of a standout
collegiate career, as an underachiever, and
thought for a moment that he should have
stuck with baseball as a youth. On Sunday,
however, he faced a media horde with what
amounted to a broad smile for the low-key
former Florida State golfer.
The 117th U.S. Open
Championship trophy sat no more than 3 feet
away, and the man who as a middle schooler
told his father, Bob, he would be a major
player on the PGA, joked “I think I’ll be
all right” to a room-wide chuckle after
claiming his first major championship.
The 27-year-old became the
third consecutive American to win the
championship by bludgeoning the course
during Sunday’s final round, carding a
5-under-par 67 to finish with a 16-under
272. His final 72-hole score tied a record
set by Rory McIlroy during the 2011 U.S.
Open at Congressional Country Club in
Brooks Koepka of West Palm Beach Fla. shakes the hand of
his caddie, Richard Elliott, after finishing the final
round of the 117th U.S. Open Championship at Erin Hills
in the town of Erin.
John Ehlke/Daily News
He hit 62 of 72 greens in
regulation through the week en route to 21
birdies compared to five bogeys, with two
during his round of 70. Koepka also posted
two rounds of minus-5 on the way to the
title three years after he used a top-4
finish at the 2014 U.S. Open to obtain his
first PGA Tour card.
“I mean, I love U.S. Opens, I
think anytime you test your whole game,” he
said. “You can’t make mistakes every shot. I
mean there’s a double and a triple waiting
around every corner, if you just kind of
take your mind off of it or just relax for a
Though Koepka made the cut in
each of the 13 consecutive majors he has
played since the 2014 U.S. Open, he also has
just one PGA Tour win (2015 Waste Management
Phoenix Open) and one European PGA Tour win
(2014 Turkish Airlines Open) to his credit.
Koepka’s world travels added another
victory, a Japan Golf Tour win at the Dunlop
Phoenix Tournament on Nov. 20, but three
different tour victories on three continents
did little to appease him.
A runner-up finish to Sergio
Garcia at the 2016 AT& T Bryon Nelson
Classic, falling in a playoff, only seemed
to add to his frustration.
“He’s been playing quite
well, and with a lot of seconds the last two
or three years,” caddie Richard Elliot said.
“Really, one thing or another has been
happening where he hasn’t been winning.
“He’s seeing all his peers
winning that are younger than him, and at 27
he’s not that old but he thinks he should be
winning every week.”
The résumé contains four
top-5 major finishes, with consecutive
top-5s in the PGA Championship, but the
dearth of wins otherwise is what stoked his
anger. His highest majors placement outside
of the PGA Championship and 2014 U.S. Open
was tied for 10th at the 2015 Open
Championship, and he had several other
weekends where he was in contention through
54 holes, only to see his chance slip away.
“I felt like I put myself in
contention so many times,” he said. “And I
don’t want to say got unlucky, I felt like I
just never fully came together. I put myself
in some good chances over the majors over
the last few years and never really quite
“But I just felt like I
should be winning more. I don’t know why.
It’s one of those things, not a big fan of
losing, I don’t think anyone out here is.
And I just couldn’t stand the fact that I’d
only won once (on the PGA Tour).”
If nothing else, Elliot and
Koepka noted, his days on the Challenge Tour
and European PGA Tour allowed him to obtain
a new mindset and some confidence while
being a world traveler at a young age.
“To go over there, I think it
helped me grow up a little bit and really
figure out that, hey, play golf, get it
done, and then you can really take this
somewhere,” Koepka said. “And I built a lot
of confidence off of that.”
He also admitted something
about a major tournament makes him “focus in
a lot more.” It was evident each day at Erin
Hills, especially during his three birdie
stretch on holes No. 14-16, which cemented
his title. The birdies took him from
minus-13 and a twostroke lead over third-day
leader Brian Harman to a nearly
insurmountable threestroke advantage. “The
second shot on 15 was unbelievable because
we were kind of in between numbers,” Elliot
said, adding the 155-yard chip shot with an
8 iron was the best shot of Koepka’s day.
“He hit this little — must have taken 15
yards off the iron. I don’t know why he did
it, but he went up there and (then) knocked
the putt in.
“He’d been hitting the ball
pretty good all week, so we had no doubt he
could get it up to where he did,” Elliot
added of the three-hole stretch. “We just
stayed patient the whole time.” Patience has
helped Koepka through his worldwide tour
since graduation. His 2016 Ryder Cup record
of 3-1 was seemingly the statistical
highlight until he stepped onto Erin Hills.
“I’d love to get a map and
just look at all the places I’ve won. It’s
pretty cool,” Koepka said. “But to win my
first major in the United States is pretty
“It hasn’t even sunk in, but
I think it will be special (when it does).”