Coming into the final round of the U.S. Open, West Palm Beach native Brooks Koepka was at -11, teeing off in the penultimate group. By the time he walked down the 18th fairway Sunday afternoon, Koepka had the U.S. Open all but in the bag with a three-shot lead over his closest challenger.
The formula was simple for Koepka, drive the ball a mile, and give himself opportunities to make birdie putts without being overly aggressive. His average driving distance on the week was just over 322 yards, and Sunday it was 318.10, seventh in the field. Nowhere was his power clearer than from the tee on his 72nd hole. Koepka took three-wood and drilled it three hundred seventy-nine yards down the middle of the fairway. While driving it far, Koepka was also able to avoid the penal tall fescue which caused fits for many of the world’s highest ranked players. Koepka was tied for 4th in fairways hit on the week at 88% and he hit twelve of fourteen in his final round. He also finished third in strokes gained/ off the tee.
This power and the ability to keep it in the fairway allowed Koepka to attack greens with shorter irons and wedges, which was especially important on Sunday when the greens were dryer and balls were rolling off. Shorter irons means higher ball flight and less roll on the greens, allowing him to be more precise than many of the top contenders. Koepka finished the week first in strokes gained/ approach the green. He also led the field in greens in regulation for the week at 86%, while hitting twenty-nine of his last thirty. In his closing round, Koepka only missed one green, the best in the field. Much of the talk this year was how the scores were much lower compared to past U.S. Opens. This might be the case, but Koepka was able to win because he stayed out of trouble, put the ball on greens, and avoided bogeys, the formula for winning any U.S. Open.
After starting his final round hot with two birdies, Koepka played consistent golf the rest of the front nine. His nerves did not seem to affect him especially on the green where his stroke stayed consistent. Koepka finished the week third in strokes gained/ putting, an impressive feat on a course where everyone agreed the greens were perfect.
On the back nine, Koepka started off with a bogey, but quickly righted the ship. On the 13th green, he had a nine-foot putt to save par and stay tied for the lead with Brian Harman. He drilled the putt which seemed to jumpstart the second half of his round, as he rattled off three straight birdies to follow on 14, 15, and 16 to essentially clinch the tournament.
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) June 19, 2017
After Nike stopped manufacturing golf clubs, Koepka decided not to sign a new club deal and play with a mixed bag of whatever worked best for him. His victory raises an interesting question of how many players are suffering from not getting to pick the equipment that is right for them.
Koepka was stoic after knocking in the last putt to secure the tournament, and he seemed in control the entire day despite the pressure. He was finally able to turn his immense talent into a terrific performance, and I’m certain it won’t be the last time.