The First Look: U.S. Open
June 07, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- June 07, 2019
Inside the PGA TOUR
2019 race for Player of the Year
Brooks Koepka, fresh off a fourth major title in 23 months, takes aim at becoming just the second man to ever win three consecutive U.S. Opens as golf’s most demanding exam returns to famed Pebble Beach for just the sixth time.
RELATED: Tee times for Rounds 1-2
Tiger Woods also will seek a second major of 2019 and 82nd PGA TOUR victory to pair with his Masters triumph, returning to the seaside layout where he blitzed the field by a record 15 shots in 2000. And Phil Mickelson, owner of five PGA TOUR wins at Pebble Beach and six U.S. Open runner-up finishes, once again tries to complete the career Grand Slam.
FIELD NOTES: Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose, current leader Matt Kuchar and Rory McIlroy also headline a roster currently slated to feature 25 of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings. … Two-time champion Ernie Els is set for his 27th consecutive U.S. Open start after being issued a special exemption. In addition to his 1994 and ’97 Open wins, he shared runner-up honors behind Woods at the 2000 edition at Pebble Beach. … Six slots remain available for players moving into the world top 60 by Monday and not already qualified. Scott Piercy currently sits at No. 60, needing to hold on. Alternates from final qualifying will fill the remaining vacancies. … A total of 14 amateurs currently grace the field, down from last year’s three-decade high of 20.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 600 points.
STORYLINES: Koepka, who added a second PGA Championship to his shelf last month at Bethpage Black, now seeks to join Willie Anderson (1903-05) as the second man to capture three consecutive U.S. Opens. Only two others since World War II have made the attempt – Ben Hogan placed third in 1952; Curtis Strange was 21st in 1990. … Woods returns to the scene of his most dominating performance, shooting 12 under par in the 2000 U.S. Open when nobody else was better than 3 over. He also was fourth in the 2010 edition, and arrives just two months removed from his Masters win that ended a major drought of nearly 11 years. … Mickelson, who turns 49 during U.S. Open week, makes his 28th attempt to add what’s now the only major missing from his portfolio. Though he collected his fifth AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am title back in February, his best finish in three U.S. Opens along the Monterey Peninsula is a tie for fourth in 2010. … Dustin Johnson, whose lone major title remains the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, returns to a site where he’s won a pair of AT&T Pebble Beach crowns. It’s also where he took a three-shot lead to the final day in the 2010 U.S. Open, but stumbled out the gate on the way to an 82.
COURSE: Pebble Beach Golf Links, 7,075 yards, par 71. Celebrating its 100th year as one of golf’s most breathtaking locales, the U.S. Open represents the back half of a rare double dip that began with the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February. Amateurs Jack Neville and Douglas Grant took pains to construct as many holes as possible along the Pacific coastline, a strategy that puts Pebble Beach at or near the top of every list of America’s top courses. It took just 10 years for the U.S. Amateur to pay a visit to the Monterey Peninsula in 1929, returning on four other occasions. The PGA TOUR made Pebble Beach part of its docket in 1947, when crooner Bing Crosby revived his popular “Clambake” pro-am after World War II. It wasn’t until 1972 that the U.S. Open first arrived, though it’s never gone more than 10 years between host roles since.
72-HOLE RECORD: 268, Rory McIlroy (2011 at Congressional CC).
18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Johnny Miller (4th round, 1973 at Oakmont), Tom Weiskopf (1st round, 1980 at Baltusrol), Jack Nicklaus (1st round, 1980 at Baltusrol), Vijay Singh (2nd round, 2003 at Olympia Fields), Justin Thomas (3rd round, 2017 at Erin Hills), Tommy Fleetwood (4th round, 2018 at Shinnecock Hills).
LAST YEAR: Koepka became the U.S. Open’s first back-to-back winner in 29 years, staying a step ahead of Tommy Fleetwood’s furious kick at Shinnecock Hills to reach the finish line one stroke in front. Part of a four-way tie to begin the final day, Koepka started quickly with three birdies in his first five holes and then battled to stay ahead of Fleetwood’s blistering back nine. Fleetwood birdied four straight on Shinnecock’s back nine and faced an 8-foot putt at No. 18 for the first 62 in U.S. Open history. It peeled off to the right, leaving the English pro to join Johnny Miller (1973) as the only men to shoot 63 on the final day. Koepka made a huge bogey save at No. 11, then two clutch pars to stay in front before a birdie at No. 16 provided the necessary cushion.
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