Koepka comes up just short in quest for three-peat
June 16, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Brooks Koepka became the first player in U.S. Open history to post four rounds in the 60s and not win the tournament. (Harry How/Getty Images)
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Through the early part of the final round at the U.S. Open, it appeared Willie Anderson was going to have company in the record books after all.
Brooks Koepka was tearing apart Pebble Beach, with four birdies in his opening five holes. His par save on the other of those five was also sublime. As his name continued to climb closer to overnight leader Gary Woodland on the leaderboard, there was a sense of déjà vu.
The 29-year-old was looking to win three straight U.S. Open titles, not done since Anderson did so in 1903, 1904 and 1905. He’d already been a runner-up at the Masters in April and won the PGA Championship in May. Another major win would have been a fifth victory in nine major starts.
But his last 11 holes proved that Koepka is human after all. It wasn’t that he played poorly, it was just that he couldn’t reach that extra gear this time around. A birdie on the 11th hole offset a bogey on the 8th, but another dropped shot on the 12th hole meant he needed to find something special over the home stretch.
Loose shots on the par-5 14th hurt, both off the tee and then on approach after a lay-up. Another tee ball to the right rough a hole later meant another grind. Then after going long in two on the par-5 18th, his chip came out a little stubby and left the defending champion nine-feet for birdie. The putt burned the edge and didn’t drop. It meant Woodland would play the final hole with a two-shot buffer, more than enough as he made birdie to win by three.
Koepka became the first player in U.S. Open history to post four rounds in the 60s and not win the tournament. He is also the first player to post five consecutive rounds in the 60s in the championship. Beginning with last year’s final round, he has posted scores of 68-69-69-68-68 in his national championship.
His 10-under total resulted in a runner-up finish, meaning his last four major finishes have been 1-T2-1-2. It’s been an incredible run for the reigning PGA TOUR Player of The Year.
“It was awesome to come this close to going three in a row. It's incredible. Anytime you can compete in a major is special and to have a chance to go back-to-back-to-back, that was pretty cool,” Koepka said.
“I didn't really think about it until I was done on 18 and realized how close I actually was to kind of, not making history, but kind of tying it, I guess you could say. But it's a cool feeling to know. Just wasn't meant to be this week.”
Koepka refused to lament his finish of six straight pars. Instead, he paid tribute to Woodland, who secured his first major championship.
“It doesn't sting. I played great. Nothing I could do. Gary played a great four days. That's what you've got to do if you want to win a U.S. Open, or win a major championship and hats off to him,” Koepka said.
“Cool way to go out on 18, to make that bomb. He deserves it, he's worked hard and I'm happy for him.”