Brooks Koepka tames Erin Hills to claim US Open title
Big-hitting Florida golfer produces a sensational round of five under on the final day to leave rivals in his wake
Brooks Koepka is the new US Open champion after a superlative round on the final day of competition at Erin Hills.
The 27-year-old from Florida, who turned professional in 2012, had won just once on the PGA Tour coming into the championship, but over the course of four days that saw saw the established names fall by the wayside, Koepka held his nerve to win his first major and with it a cheque for $2.1m (£1.6m).
"It was bombs away," he said of his five-under 67 final round. "You could hit it far and the fairways were generous enough. That was a big plus for me. I'm a big ball striker. On some of these par fives I don't even need to hit a driver to get there."
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama enjoyed a fine final round, posting a 66 to tie for second on 12 under with overnight leader Brian Harman, while England's Tommy Fleetwood, shot a level-par 72 to finish fourth on 11 under.
The 26-year-old from Southport was appearing in only his second US Open but despite surpassing his expectations he was unable to live with his playing partner, Koepka, on the final day.
The pair started Sunday's final round one off the lead but American holed three birdies in his first eight holes, while the pressure got to Fleetwood as he carded three bogeys in the front nine."I didn't play how I wanted to," admitted the Englishman, who is ranked 33rd in the world. "You never know how you're going to react being up there in the final round. You've got to deal with that and it's all new for me."
Fleetwood enjoyed a better back nine, picking up a birdie on the par-five 14th and making par on the last four holes, but by then Koepka was out of sight. "The shots he hit down the stretch, you can't describe how hard some of them are," Fleetwood said of his playing partner. "He was phenomenal - I would've like to have played like that. It was windy and he shot five under, fair play."
On the longest course in major championship history (7,845-yards), and in the first major since world rankings were introduced in 1986 that the top three - Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day - all missed the cut at a major, Koepka coped admirably with the conditions and the pressure.
"That's about the best I've ever played," he said, and Koepka's winning score of 16 under equalled the US Open record set by Rory McIlroy when he won the tournament in 2011. In dedicating the victory to his dad, Bob, on Father's Day appropriately, Koepka said: "This will make up for the card that I didn't get him."
Rickie Fowler leads the US Open as favourites crumble
Rickie Fowler leads the US Open after shooting a seven-under 65 in the first round at Erin Hills. But one shot behind the American is England's Paul Casey, who enjoyed the round of his life on a course where many of the established names struggled to make an impression.
Heavy rain earlier in the week had softened the greens and taken the speed out of the fairways, and some golfers coped better than others in adapting to the new feel of the course.
One of those was the 39-year-old Casey, who said: "I'm over the moon with a 66. I'm feeling really, really good about this golf course. I like classic US Open courses but this is different. It has an Open Championship feel about it."
Having eagled the first hole, Casey recovered from a bogey on the tenth to card three birdies in the next eight holes. Alongside him on six-under is Xander Schauffele with England's Tommy Fleetwood tied for fourth on five under with Brooks Koepka and Brian Harman, while Englishmen Lee Westwood and Andrew Johnston are three under.
"The course was as receptive as it's going to be but I never really tried to make a birdie, they just seemed to happen along the way," said Fowler, who has missed the cut in six of his previous seven major appearances.
Others found the going tougher, however, with defending champion Dustin Johnson finishing the day three over, Rory McIlroy six over and world number three Jason Day posting a seven-over 79, including two triple bogeys.
"I don't think I hit a fairway from the tenth and you cannot play this golf course if you are not in position off the tee," said McIlroy, the 2011 US Open champion, who was returning after recovering from a rib injury. "It was just one of those days. My timing was just a little bit off. I started missing some left and tried to correct it and missed a couple right."
There was nothing amiss about Fowler's timing, however, on a day when his seven-under 65 equalled the lowest US Open first round score, posted by Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf at Baltusrol in 1980. "I just kept making putts when it mattered," said the 28-year-old, who has finished in the top five of every major but has yet to win one.
Told that he had equalled the lowest US Open first round score, Fowler replied: "It's cool to be part of some sort of history in golf, but I'd rather be remembered for something that's done on Sunday."