Koepka's trip around the world leads to major title at home

Vincent De Villiers
Junho 21, 2017

Tom Kite was 10 years older when he won the 1992 U.S. Open, his first and only major.

Then again, Erin Hills was the ideal setup for Koepka, as he acknowledged in his presser.

The wind kicked up, but it didn't faze Koepka. He made par and finished at 16-under 272, matching the record to par by Rory McIlroy, who shot 16-under 268 at Congressional in 2011. That was four shots clear of Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman. He earned $2.16 million, his nation's championship and the comfort of knowing the far-flung trips to Kenya and Kazakhstan and India and beyond are all in the rearview mirror. "I'll go anywhere. I think it helped me grow up a little bit and really figure out that, hey, play golf, get it done, and then you can really take this somewhere". However, traveling the world and experiencing a variety of conditions, breaking free of the blanketed comforts of home was ultimately the venture that built the character of a dominant U.S. Open champion.

Koepka has been tipped for the top since winning three tournaments on the Challenge Tour in 2013 to earn instant promotion to the European Tour but the third win was in serious danger of never happening. Play the same, too. "I just felt like I should be winning more". He added: "They play very aggressively. And it's no surprise".

World number 22 Koepka then uncorked a brilliant trio of birdies on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes to surge into a four-shot lead and virtually assure himself of the title. He followed that up with birdies on the next three holes.

And on Sunday, the only day all week when a challenging wind tested the players, he missed only one green, in supreme command of all facets of his game as he compiled a five-under 67. His round of 66 was over almost 90 minutes before Koepka strolled to the 18th green, with the tournament all but wrapped up. And with some of the game's current greats having some relative struggles, can Koepka take advantage and join that group of Spieth, McIlroy, Day and his good friend Johnson?

Other than him, nobody made a charge.

Rickie Fowler's hopes of ending his wait for a major faded with an error-strewn performance, a level-par 72 leaving him six shots adrift. He closed with a 75 to finish tied for ninth at 8-under with Trey Mullinax (68) and Brandt Snedeker (71). It's a score that would've won all but two of the previous 116 renditions of the U.S. Open. It was long - the longest in U.S. Open history - and the fescue lining the fairways was brutal.

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Spieth, the 2015 Open champion, was in the fifth of the 34 twosomes to tee off, and he tamed a course that was buffeted by 30 miles per hour winds with a 3-under 69, his best round of the week by two strokes.

"It would be a lot of fun to see this place firm and fast", Fowler said.

It all came together this week for the talented Koepka, who said he practiced patience and it paid off.

Upon getting out of Florida State, he was without a card on any tour, so went onto the Challenge Tour, which is Europe's version of the Web.com Tour.

And he was ready to come home. I was kind of - I don't want to say homesick, it was just exhausted of golf.

Third round leader Brian Harman, who had led by one-shot at the start of the round, finished second on 12 under after an even-par 72. Challenge Tour to the U.S. Open.

Koepka's victory, and before him Sergio Garcia at the U.S. Masters, show the folly of jumping on the bandwagon of whoever happens to be hot on any given week, or month.

A one-time victor no longer, Koepka has set his sights even higher, adding: "We started out this year and I thought I needed to win multiple times and a major".

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