SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y.—Brooks Koepka has the game to win a U.S. Open on any course.
One year after overpowering the wide fairways of Erin Hills in a U.S. Open remembered for low scoring, Koepka navigated his way through the brutal conditions of Shinnecock Hills and closed with a two-under 68 yesterday to become the first repeat champion in 29 years.
Curtis Strange, the last player to go back-to-back in this major, watched the entire final round yesterday as the Fox Sports reporter on the ground, and they shared a brief hug off the 18th green after Koepka tapped in for bogey and a one-shot victory.
“Man, it feels good to hold this thing again,” Koepka said with the silver trophy in his arms.
His victory yesterday might not have been possible if not for grinding out a 72 on Saturday in conditions so severe that the last 45 players to tee off in the third round didn't break par.
The USGA conceded the course was over the top, and pledged to give it more water and slow it down.
Bogeys gave way to birdies yesterday—and no one took advantage like Tommy Fleetwood of England.
He made eight birdies (none on the two par-fives) and missed an eight-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a 63—only the sixth player in U.S. Open history to go that low.
“Yeah, but I wanted a 62,” said Fleetwood, who finished one shot back and had to settle for second place.
Fleetwood was one shot behind when he finished, and Koepka still had 11 holes to play as Shinnecock Hills began to get crisp under another sunny sky.
But Koepka never lost the lead.
With a putting performance and calm demeanour reminiscent of Retief Goosen when he won the previous U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills back in 2004, the 28-year-old Koepka began the back nine with three pivotal putts—one for birdie, one for bogey, and one for par.
The biggest might have been his bogey on the nasty little par-three 11th.
Koepka pulled it to the left, down the slope and into thick grass. He chopped that up the slope with so much speed that it raced across the green and into the bunker.
He blasted that out to eight feet and made the putt to keep his lead at one shot.
“I think that was like making a birdie, maybe even making an eagle," Koepka remarked. ”Because it could have been a big momentum shift there, and we could have been playing tennis just going back and forth.
“To make bogey there was pretty incredible and I think kind of the reason why we won.”
He wasn't through. Koepka hacked out of the hay over the green at No. 12, pitched beautifully to seven feet, and made the par.
Two holes later, after another drive into grass so thick he wasn't sure he could get it out, Koepka rolled in an eight-footer for another par save.
He finished at one-over 281—13 shots higher than his winning score at Erin Hills last year. It also was the first time since 2013 at Merion that no one broke par in the U.S. Open.
“I enjoy the test," Koepka said. ”I enjoy being pushed to the limit.
"Sometimes you feel like you are about to break mentally but that's what I enjoy.
“I enjoy hard golf courses," he added. "I enjoy playing about the toughest in golf you are ever going to play.”
Dustin Johnson, part of the four-way tie for the lead to start the final round, couldn't keep up with one of his best friends.
Johnson was one shot behind at the turn until a trio of three-putt bogeys on the back nine.
A birdie on the final home gave him an even-par 70 to finish alone in third and remain No. 1 in the world.