SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — While Patrick Reed was profitable the Masters in April, Brooks Koepka sat at house in Florida nursing a left wrist harm that had stored him off the golf course for many of the earlier 4 months. He wouldn’t be cleared to take full swings along with his wedges or irons till the Monday after his buddies and PGA Tour rivals had departed Augusta National.
That didn’t depart a lot time for Koepka to organize to defend his United States Open title. But his swing coach, Claude Harmon III, knew Koepka can be high quality when he noticed that he was glued to the tv, watching the finish of the Masters as an alternative of the starting of the Major League Baseball season.
The viewing selection augured nicely for Koepka, “who’s never really been a golf nerd,” mentioned Harmon.
“He watched the Masters,” Harmon added, “and I really believe he fell in love with golf again.”
Koepka, 28, who thought-about himself a pissed off baseball participant slumming in golf for a lot of his teenagers and twenties, endeared himself to golf nerds, together with these not but born, on Sunday by turning into the third skilled to win consecutive males’s nationwide championships since 1949, after Ben Hogan in 1950 and 1951 and Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989.
“It’s really incredible,” Koepka mentioned. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Koepka, who started the day in a four-way tie for the lead, closed with a two-under 68 and a 72-hole rating of one-over 281 at Shinnecock Hills. He completed one stroke forward of the Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, who tied the document for a males’s U.S. Open spherical along with his closing 63. It was the first time since 2013 that the winner had completed over par.
When Koepka gained final yr at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, he completed at 16 below, tying the U.S. Open document set by Rory McIlroy at Congressional in 2011. But Shinnecock, which hosted the Open for the fifth time, has been recognized to humble the world’s finest golfers, as the late a part of Saturday’s spherical demonstrated. Amid excessive temperatures and stiff winds, it produced hovering scores and loads of criticism of the setup. Koepka, nevertheless, appeared unperturbed.
“You’ve got to keep going, keep plugging away and don’t get caught up in all the talk and just keep focused on what you’re doing,” he mentioned after his victory, including, “I enjoy being pushed to the limit. Sometimes, you feel like you are about to break mentally, but that’s what I enjoy.”
Dustin Johnson, who’s Koepka’s coaching associate and shut pal, posted a 70 for sole possession of third at three over.
Koepka’s father was a pitcher in school, and Koepka mentioned that, if not for his struggles hitting fastballs, he in all probability by no means would have targeted on golf. He has no drawback hitting the lengthy ball off golf tees, however his placing was his salvation in the remaining spherical, significantly the seven-footer he made for birdie at No. 10 and the 15-footer he drained at No. 11 to salvage a bogey.
“The one that was really massive for us was No. 11,” Koepka mentioned, referring to himself and his caddie, Ricky Elliott. “That was like making a birdie,” Koepka added, “maybe even making an eagle, it felt like, because it could have been a big momentum shift there.”
Koepka’s milestone second got here at the expense of Reed’s stab at historical past. Reed, who closed with a 68 to complete in fourth place, at 4 over, was making an attempt to grow to be the seventh man, and the first since Jordan Spieth in 2015, to win the first two legs of a calendar Grand Slam. No skilled has gained each males’s main in the similar yr.
“I had a chance, I definitely had a chance,” Reed mentioned. “Just too many missed putts, and at the end of the day, just needed to hit my approaches a little closer.”
Strange, in his position as a Fox Sports analyst, walked the remaining spherical alongside Koepka and mentioned he was rooting for him to win.
“I had a front-row seat and I thought it was fantastic,” Strange mentioned, including: “It was fun for me to watch somebody play so well and do something special because so many of the greats haven’t done that.”
The event’s Father’s Day end is a candy topping on the Sunday drama, with gamers rhapsodizing about the paternal bonds that cemented their love for the recreation. Fleetwood signed for his 63, then mentioned he deliberate to play along with his 9-month-old son, Franklin, whereas he waited to see if any of the 26 gamers who teed off after him might enhance on his cumulative rating of two-over 282.
It was Fleetwood’s first Father’s Day with a baby, and one sensed, from the approach his face brightened when he talked about his son, that the day had been a particular one lengthy earlier than his remaining putt dropped.
Koepka’s father, Bob, watched final yr’s event on tv. But he made the journey to Shinnecock Hills.
“I told him last year, ‘This was the best Father’s Day present ever — until next year,” Bob Koepka mentioned after the remaining putt dropped. “And I’m going to tell him the same thing now.”