He drove it like Nicklaus, hit irons like Hogan and putted like Crenshaw.
No one really had a chance on Sunday at Erin Hills when Brooks Koepka went to work. The 27-year-old sent an immediate message to the rest of the would-be contenders when he opened birdie-birdie to start his final round of the 117th U.S. Open Championship.
It only got better for Koepka as the day went on. Erin Hills did its best to defend itself, but there’s no hiding from a talent like Koepka. It just wasn’t a fair fight.
The winds came up but that didn’t bother him. He added another front nine birdie to his opening two holes and turned three-under, 14-under for the championship. His only hiccup came with a three-putt at the par four 10th. It was his only three-putt in 72 holes. He hit 17 of 18 greens Sunday and blew everyone away. He made a great par-saving putt at the 13th then slammed it into overdrive with three straight birdies that took all doubt out of the outcome. It’s the way a guy named Eldrick used to put the competition away.
By day’s end, a two-footer finished it. The former FSU golf teamer closed with 67, and tied Rory McIlroy’s U.S. Open scoring record from 2011 at 16-under par.
“That’s unbelievable,” Koepka told two-time Open champion Curtis Strange. “I don’t know what to say. It was a team effort,” Koepka went on, citing the father-son teaching team of Butch and Claude Harmon III, same guys who work with Dustin Johnson. Speaking of Johnson, last year’s champ who missed the cut, it is D.J. who Koepka hangs out with in Jupiter. Practices with him, trains with him in the gym, chills out with him.
Koepka was the calmest guy on the course Sunday, the Cool Hand Luke of Erin Hills.
“I felt so confident out there, it was great,” Kopeka said with a huge smile on his face.
Nothing like confidence to go along with the huge skill set.
Koepka was confident early in the week. He knew about the course, played in the U.S. Amateur on the layout in 2011. “I was here for the Amateur. The fairways are wide, it was kinda bombs away, a big plus for me. The way I putted this week was unbelievable.”
The only player who hung with Koepka for most of the day was overnight leader Brian Harman. But the old saying in sports held true — a good big man will beat a good little man. “It was a tough day,” Harman admitted after he shot 72 and tied for second with Hideki Matsuyama at 12-under. “I thought a couple under would get it done but Brooks came up and won it. I gave it my best shot.”
Harman shouldn’t feel bad. None of the final round contenders had enough fire-power to match Koepka. Tommy Fleetwood, Koepka’s playing partner didn’t. He shot even par and finished solo fourth at 11-under behind Harman and Matsuyama.
Rickie Fowler couldn’t muster enough game. He shot even par and finished 10-under with Bill Haas and Xander Schauffele.
Kopeka was simply in a class of his own all week.
The guy looks the part of rising superstar. He’s big at 6-1, 185, he looks like a big Wisconsin farm-boy. He has biceps like a football player and for 72 holes at Erin Hills, had absolutely no weaknesses to be found.
D.J., Rory and Jason Day better be taking notice. All three missed the cut and sooner than later, Brooks Kopeka will be showing up to take their places in the world rankings. The victory pushed him up to No. 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings, while Matsuyama bumped Rory and J-Day, moving to No. 2 and pushing those guys down.
Brooks is on his way up.
Count on it.