Brooks Koepka was not a household name on Saturday, but by Sunday night he jumped to golf’s upper stratosphere by winning the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills.
It looked as if it was going to be a nail-biting back nine, but after making a great save on 13, he birdied the next three holes to win by four shots in a runaway.
Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama finished second at 12 under and Tommy Fleetwood was 11 under.
Xander Schauffele, Bill Haas and Rickie Fowler were at 10 under.
Koepka is unknown to the casual golf watcher but his athletic build and solid form have made him a favorite of those that play in fantasy golf leagues. Prior to Sunday, his only PGA Tour victory was in the 2015 Waste Management Open in Phoenix.
His previous best U.S. Open finish was a tie for fourth in 2014.
If you were taking one of those childhood tests to figure out which item doesn’t belong, Koepka would have been that item when talking about the golfing mecca of Jupiter, Fl.
The city is home to defending U.S. Open champion Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and, of course, Tiger Woods. Koepka and Johnson even train and hang out together. Now he belongs.
It looked as if it was going to be a two-man race between Koepka and Harman, the third round leader, after the first few holes. Koepka had birdied one and two and Harman had birdied three to leave them both at 13 under.
The rest of the field had started to back up. Justin Thomas, who set a record-breaking 63 on Saturday, had an especially bad start bogeying three of the first five holes. He finished with a 75 to finish the tournament at eight under.
Koepka, playing the group ahead of Harman, broke the tie with a 34-foot birdie putt on the par four eighth. Koepka gave a shot back on the 10th when he missed a 10-foot putt for par, it was his first back-nine bogey of the week.
Harman got in trouble on the 12th when he put his drive in the right fescue, had to pitch out and settle for a bogey when he missed the green on his third shot and then two putted. Koepka was scrambling himself when he had to make a nine-foot par putt on the par three 13th.
Koepka got in trouble again on the 14th when he put his second shot in a bunker. But a brilliant sand shot put the ball to about four feet and he made the putt to take a two-shot lead over Matsuyama, who was in the clubhouse.
Matsuyama shot a six under for the day with eight birdies and two bogeys.
At this point Harman has seemingly taken himself out with a bogey on 13, even though he came back with birdies on 14 and 16 before bogeying 18.
At this point, all Koepka had to do was hold it together on the last four holes.
He did more than that. It started with a 10-foot putt for birdie on 15, the toughest hole on the course on Sunday. Then a 17 footer on 16 for his third birdie in a row.
He parred 17 and 18 and had to wait for Harman and Thomas to finish in the next group to claim his first ever major victory.
5:25 p.m.: This article was updated throughout the round with additional details.
This article was originally published at 10:15 a.m.
Published at Mon, 19 Jun 2017 00:25:00 +0000
Paul George has made it official, according to a report.
George wants to come home.
Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reported that George’s agent, Aaron Mintz, has told Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard that he plans to opt out of his contract after the 2017-18 season. Further, George let it be known that he would like to sign with the Lakers in free agency. The report added that George’s motivation for disclosing this to Pritchard was to allow the Pacers to plan for a future without him.
It’s been a long time since a talented player has been so intent on playing for the Lakers.
“That was something that I didn’t recognize,” Lakers President and co-owner Jeanie Buss said. “That wasn’t anything we’d gone through before. It hurt. It hurt that there were players that didn’t see what a great opportunity it would be to play for a premiere sports team in the best market with the best fans in a top three building in the league. It just didn’t make any sense. It was a disappointment. But I think I guess we’ll see how things go.”
She overhauled the Lakers’ front office on Feb. 21, replacing General Manager Mitch Kupchak with Rob Pelinka and replacing her brother, who was the executive vice president of basketball operations, with Magic Johnson as president of basketball operations. Since the start of their tenure, they’ve said they have felt the tide turning.
That projected No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz was willing to work out for the Lakers felt, inside the building, like a sign that the Lakers were once again an attractive destination for stars. George’s declaration offers heavier proof.
George grew up in Palmdale, a fan of the Lakers and especially Kobe Bryant.
At the trade deadline, George made no secret that the Lakers piqued his interest. It might have scared away some potential suitors, but then-Pacers president of basketball operations Larry Bird told The Times he was not motivated to move George at the deadline. Johnson briefly discussed it with Bird, but that conversation never advanced past a preliminary stage.
Bird stepped down from the role this spring, seemingly paving the way for moving George. What also might have helped lubricate the situation was that George did not make an All-NBA team this year, making it unlikely he will qualify for a supermax extension, worth more than $200 million, after next season.
The stark truth, though, is that any team except the Lakers would likely only be getting George on a one-year rental. It’s a fact that could depress the trade market for him, to the Lakers’ advantage.
Mintz is also the agent for Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell and forward Julius Randle.
Then again, if George will come to Los Angeles in free agency, there might be more sense in simply waiting until then.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
Published at Sun, 18 Jun 2017 23:25:00 +0000