SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – In an mocking spin Sunday, a final male to win uninterrupted U.S. Opens was tasked with chronicling Brooks Koepka’s final spin during Shinnecock Hills.
Carrying a microphone for Fox Sports, Curtis Strange kept his restraint as a on-course reporter. He didn’t cough in Koepka’s downswing. Didn’t step on his round in a fescue. Didn’t speak too aloud while Koepka lined adult a putt.
Instead, Strange stood off to a side, clipboard covering his mouth, and watched in astonishment as Koepka hammered himself as a best U.S. Open actor of this subsequent generation.
And so after Koepka became a initial actor in 29 years to take uninterrupted Opens, Strange found himself fourth in a nod line nearby a 18th green. He was behind Koepka’s personification competitor, Dustin Johnson. And he was behind Koepka’s father, Bob. And he was behind Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott.
But there Strange was, station on a sandy trail heading to a clubhouse, prepared to rigourously acquire Koepka into one of a many disdainful clubs in golf.
“Hell of a job, bud,” Strange barked in his ear, above a din. “Incredible.”
That Koepka prevailed on dual extravagantly opposite layouts, and in totally opposite conditions, was even some-more satisfying.
Erin Hills, in Middle of Nowhere, Wis., was distinct any U.S. Open venue in new memory. The wide-open fairways were lined with thick, low fescue, though complicated sleet early in a week and a deficiency of any poignant breeze incited golf’s toughest exam into a Greater Milwaukee Open. Koepka bashed his proceed to a record-tying measure (16 underneath par) and over a past year has never felt entirely appreciated, in vast partial since of a weirdness of a USGA setup.
Koepka doesn’t courtesy himself with that form of noise, of course, though when he arrived during Shinnecock progressing this week he felt a clarity of familiarity. The inexhaustible fairways. The punishing venue. The reward on iron play.
“It’s a identical feel,” Elliott said. “We pronounced it all week.”
A new, quirky venue like Erin Hills competence not have been hold in high regard, though a abounding story of Shinnecock? It demanded respect.
“He’s some player,” Strange said, “and I’m unapproachable of him since there was some speak final year of Erin Hills not being a Open that is ostensible to be an Open. But he won on a classic, so he’s an Open player.”
“This one is a lot sweeter,” Koepka said.
Those around a 28-year-old were repelled that he even had a possibility to urge his title.
Last tumble Koepka began feeling annoy in his left wrist. He finished final in uninterrupted tournaments around a holidays, afterwards underwent an MRI that showed he had a ripped vinculum in his left wrist.
Koepka takes measureless honour in carrying a life outward of golf – he never watches Tour coverage on off-weeks – though he was officious miserable during his unfixed army on a sidelines. He pronounced it was a lowest indicate of his career, as he sat in a soothing expel adult to his elbow, binge-watching TV shows and gaining 15 pounds. The usually players he listened from during his hiatus: Johnson, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson.
“You only feel like we get forgotten,” Koepka said.
During a spring, Elliott would spasmodic expostulate from Orlando to Jupiter, Fla., to check on his boss. “He was down in a dumps,” he said. “That arrange of damage he had, it didn’t seem like there was going to be an end. There was no timeframe on it, and that was a many frustrating thing.”
After a Masters, Koepka told Elliott that his wrist was feeling improved and that he was going to start attack balls. Elliott brought his clubs to South Florida, and they played a few holes during The Floridian.
“He was attack it right on a button,” Elliott said. “I said, ‘Are we certain we haven’t been practicing?’ He hadn’t missed a beat. we have no thought how he does it. He’s only a tremendously gifted guy.”
In singular movement before a Open, Koepka dismissed a contingent of 63s, during TPC Sawgrass and Colonial. He’s never been brief on certainty – as a 12-year-old he once told his father that he was going to dump out of propagandize in 4 years and spin pro – and he recently woofed to pitch manager Claude Harmon III that he was primed to win someday in May or June.
“I pronounced to him on a operation this morning, ‘You were on your cot in Jan and February, not unequivocally meaningful if we were going to be means to play here,’” Harmon said. “I consider that’s since it means so most to him. That’s one of a reasons that he kept observant no one was some-more assured than him, since to get this event to come behind and play and have a possibility to win back-to-back U.S. Opens, he was going to take advantage of it as best he could.”
Koepka carded a second-round 66 to put himself in a mix, afterwards survived a hellacious third-round setup to join a four-way tie for a lead, along with Johnson, a universe No. 1 and his associate Bash Brother.
As most as Johnson is praised for his resilience, Koepka has proven to be equally tough in break time, generally in this major. There’s no improved theatre for Koepka to showcase his measureless gifts than a Open, an hearing that tests players physically, mentally and even spiritually. But Koepka, like Johnson, never assimilated a flourishing carol of complainers during Shinnecock. The closest he came to criticizing a setup was this: “I consider a impetus is really close.”
Rather than whine, he pronounced that he relished a plea of banishment divided from flags. He ostensible bad shots. He attempted to discharge double bogeys. Even after his wrist injury, Koepka showed no perplexity gouging out of a low fescue, his inhuman clubhead speed permitting him to shun a severe and follow proceed shots nearby a green, where he could rest on his sneaky-good brief game.
“He has a ideal diversion to play in majors,” Harmon said. “He substantially plays some-more conservatively in majors. We’re always joking that we wish he would play a proceed he does in majors any week. we only consider he knows how critical pars and bogeys are. It says a lot about him as a player.”
Johnson has many of a same earthy and mental attributes, and they’ve any benefited from a other’s heated concentration and discipline. They both belong to a despotic diet and are visit examination partners, that even enclosed a gym event on Sunday morning, before their penultimate pairing. They done tiny talk, chatting about lifting and how many of a Sunday pins were located in a center of a green, though after they arrived during a impetus they hardly pronounced dual difference to any other.
“They’re good friends on and off a course,” Harmon said, “but they really wish to flog a s— out of any other.”
“That’s a proceed it’s ostensible to be,” Strange said. “If they’re best buddies, well, you’re station between me and a trophy. You don’t caring most for him for 4 1/2 hours.”
There was most during interest Sunday, though nothing some-more poignant than Koepka’s impetus on history. Squaring off head-to-head opposite a game’s best player, Koepka outplayed Johnson from a outset, going 3 underneath for a initial 10 holes to open adult a two-shot lead. And distinct during Erin Hills, where he pulled divided late with birdies, it was his standard (and bogey) saves that kept Koepka afloat on Nos. 11, 12 and 14.
In a end, he clipped Fleetwood (who shot a record-tying 63) by one and Johnson by two.
“You’ve got to give him a lot of credit,” Strange said, jolt his head. “He’s got a lot of guts.”
As Koepka marched divided to pointer his card, Strange was asked if it was bittersweet to know that he’s no longer a answer to a trivia question, a final man to go back-to-back during a Open.
“Heck no!” he said. “What are they going to do, take one away? I’m a partial of a group. And it’s a good group. we wish it means as most to him as it has to me.”