Clutch putts help Koepka home
June 17, 2018
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Brooks Koepka overshot the par-3 11th hole and cannoned into the famous Shinnecock Hills fescue – leaving him with one thought when he found his ball.
“I would have taken double,” he said when recalling the putrid lie he witnessed.
A five indeed looked likely when all he could do was hack the ball across the green and into a bunker and then his bunker shot pulled up 12 feet, nine inches short of the hole.
If he missed the putt he would drop back into a tie for the lead and give those around him new found vigor.
Instead he buried it – having seen a few players early on television miss it short he was sure to give it a little extra.
“That was big because, from where we were, I want to say I would have taken double when we were in jail,” he said after becoming the seventh player to go back-to-back in U.S. Open history.
“You can't miss it there. To make that big of a mistake, you just want to walk away with bogey.
“Luckily, that putt went in, and that built some momentum coming down the stretch and made me feel a little bit better with the putter.”
Indeed it did.
He followed it up with a clutch six-foot par save on the 12th hole and then again from eight feet on the 14th hole to preserve his place at the top.
Like Retief Goosen had done the last time the championship was at Shinnecock, Koepka kept making the ones that counted.
He ranked second in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting.
“I made those clutch eight to 10-footers that you need to make to kind of keep the momentum going,” Koepka said.
“And I felt like we didn't drive it that great, but you can make up so much with a hot putter, and I feel like that's kind of what I was doing.
“I could have been very easily derailed, making double or triple. You've just got to keep plugging away.
“Once you see one go in, sometimes it feels like the hole just opens up for you.”
FLEETWOOD’S FLOURISH FALLS JUST SHORT … England’s Tommy Fleetwood had a chance at history with a short putt early on Sunday to be the first player in history to shoot 62 in a U.S. Open. Little did he know it was also ultimately be for a spot in a playoff.
In the end the miss would leave him as the sixth player to shoot 63 in America’s national championship and leave him at 2-over 282.
He has now finished fourth and second in the last two U.S. Open’s.
DJ FINDS FEDEXCUP LEAD … Dustin Johnson started the final round on Sunday tied for the lead and the favorite among most to claim a second U.S. Open and second major.
But while others were throwing birdie daggers everywhere Johnson couldn’t get his putter dialed in.
He hung around playing partner and friend Brooks Koepka most of the round but every time Koepka made a big putt it seemed Johnson would miss one right after.
Bogeys on 11 and 14 proved critical and while a birdie on 15 gave faint hopes … ultimately he would shoot 70 and finish two shots back in third place.
“He's going to win another one … we all know that,” Koepka said about his good friend.
“He's won every year he's been out here on the PGA TOUR. That's incredible.
“How many more he wins, we don't know. There definitely will be one more major at least. He's one of the best to ever play the game. He really is.”
Johnson had the small consolation of moving to the top of the FedExCup standings, taking over from Justin Thomas who slides to second.
Koepka makes a move from 46th to 13th in the standings. Fleetwood was the other big mover going from 61st to 28th.
REED GIVES SLAM A SHOUT … Masters champion Patrick Reed had gone nearly unnoticed this week at Shinnecock Hills despite starting the final round just three shots off the lead.
As the only player with a chance to win the grand slam this season perhaps we should have paid closer attention.
But he certainly made his presence felt early Sunday with a blistering opening that saw him make three birdies out of the gate to join the lead.
He would actually make five birdies in the opening seven holes and have the galleries in hysterics with his USA themed attire and thunderbolt play.
But a costly three-putt bogey on the par-4 9th hole would be the start of an unravelling.
Further bogeys on 11 and 12 would end his charge and he had to settle for a round of 68 and fourth place, three shots back.
“Through the first 11 holes, I didn't really feel like I missed a golf shot,” Reed said.
“Of course it's disappointing, but at the same time I finish tied for second at the PGA last year, won Augusta, then I'll finish in the top five here.
“To finish in the top ten my last three majors, and to have a chance to really win all three of them and to close one off, it means a lot.
“Grand slam would have been nice but honestly, to me, that was really the last thing on my mind. It was go out, play some solid golf, try to post a number and see if you can get the job done.”
Reed now has three top-15 finishes in five U.S. Open starts.
FINAU AND BERGER GAIN VALUABLE EXPERIENCE … They were unexpectedly thrown into their first final group at a major experience and both Tony Finau and Daniel Berger will be better for it.
After their impressive rounds of 66 early Saturday managed to take them from 45th to first while the course conditions turned brutal the pair had to quickly adjust their thinking.
From barely making the cut they were in the U.S. Open up to their eyeballs.
But it only took four holes on Sunday to figure they might not factor at the end.
Finau had three straight bogeys from the second to the fourth and Berger dropped two shots in the same period.
Berger never really recovered but Finau had birdies on eight, nine and 11 to give himself an outside chance.
Two shots back with four to play Finau just couldn’t muster any late magic and needing a miracle eagle on the last hole – instead made double bogey to shoot 72 and finish fifth.
It was his best ever major finish and third top-10 behind his T10 efforts at the 2018 Masters and 2015 PGA Championship.
“I was proud of the way I fought and had an outside chance coming down the stretch. I gave myself good looks, 15, 16, 17. I hit some good putts that didn't go in. Sometimes that's the rub of the green,” Finau said.
“It's huge for my confidence. This is the first major championship where I was really in contention. I've had a couple of top ten finishes, but not really anywhere near the leaderboard or near the top.
“This is the first time I got a taste of the final group, and coming down the stretch, having a chance to try and catch Brooks, it was a lot of fun for me.
“It's a huge part for my confidence just moving forward, knowing that I've been there, been in that situation, and I have the game to play against the best players in the world on some of the toughest courses.”
Finau, a winner at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, said he wouldn’t be trying to change his aggressive style despite some costly errors.
“My game is built for championship golf,” he said.
“I make a lot of birdies. Sometimes the cost of making birdies, sometimes there are some mistakes, which kind of bit me in the butt this week. I think I had four doubles.
“Unfortunate what happened on 18, but to post my first top five in a major this week is pretty cool.”
JUSTIN ROSE – The 2013 U.S. Open champion just never got it going Sunday, shooting 73 to drop to 7-over and a tie for 10th.
JUSTIN THOMAS – Thomas lost his top spot in the FedExCup rankings to Dustin Johnson after a final round 74 left him tied 25th.
HENRIK STENSON – Paired with Rose the Swede couldn’t buy a birdie until the middle of the back nine, treading water to a 71 and a T6 finish.
XANDER SCHAUFFELE – The PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year closed with a 68 to finish T6.
PHIL MICKELSON – Shot 69 to finish at 16 over and well back.
RICKIE FOWLER – After his debacle 84 on Saturday Rickie shot a 65 Sunday to regain some respectability to his score and finish in a tie for 20th.
WEBB SIMPSON – The PLAYERS champion and former U.S. Open winner shot 69 on Sunday to finish T10.
MATT PARZIALE & LUIS GAGNE – Shared low-amateur honors at 16 over.
QUOTABLESIt's incredible. I looked at all these names a million times, it felt like, last year. To have my name on there twice is pretty incredible, and to go back to back is even more extraordinary.I wanted 62.Play better.It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that's for sure.I actually probably played a little bit better yesterday than I did today, and I shot 16 shots better. So I think they know they made a mistake yesterday.
Low round: 7-under 63. Tommy Fleetwood’s U.S. Open record tying effort.
Fairways: Rd 4: 14/14 Tyler Duncan. Cumulative: 48/56 Tommy Fleetwood
Greens In Regulation: Rd 4: 16/18 Tommy Fleetwood, Dustin Johnson, Russell Henley. Cumulative: 51/72 Haotong Li
Strokes Gained: Putting: Rd 4: +4.091 Hideki Matsuyama. Cumulative: Dylan Meyer +2.504
Toughest hole: Rd 4: Par-4 18th at 4.313. Cumulative: Par-4 14th at 4.567
Easiest hole: Rd 4: Par-5 5th at 4.836. Cumulative: Par-5 5th at 4.780