American becomes seventh straight first-time Major winner as the US Open serves up gripping action
ANOTHER Major. Another first-time winner. Brooks Koepka’s triumph at the US Open at Erin Hills Golf Club in Wisconsin last weekend was the seventh straight event at which a player secured his breakthrough Major title.
It was also a championship loaded with exceptionally good quality golf.
Highlighted by the new generation of young blood coming through, it also consigned the days of when only one, or a handful of stars, dominated golf’s most celebrated stage to the dustbin.
Add to that Justin Thomas’ third round 63 and a string of tournament records, and you get a semblance of just what transpired at the season’s Major championship.
The world’s top-three players – Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – all failed to make the cut, which merely added spice to things.
Consequently, Asia’s leading protagonist, Hideki Matsuyama climbed to a career best second in the world rankings after his tie for second place with Brian Harman.
And as outstanding as Koepka’s victory was, the 25-year-old Japan star again gave notice that he remains on the threshold of a Major breakthrough. His second day 65 and last round 66 were as good as any at the tournament, barring only a couple of efforts.
For a numbers of reasons Koepka’s win illuminated the world of golf this week. But perhaps the most telling about it, apart from the win itself, was that this player took his game to the Asian and European Tour before returning to the US Open to emerge as the real deal.
The 27-year-old from West Palm Beach, Florida, primed his game with wins in Asia and Europe prior to his assault on Erin Hills, where he finished with a 16-under 272 total. Three rounds in the 60s and a 70, ensured a four-stroke victory would write his own chapter in the annals of US Open folklore.
Tommy Fleetwood’s fourth place was also one for the books and gave further notice that this young Englishman, one place away from breaking into the world’s top-20, could become a force to reckon with in the not too distant future.
American Xander Schauffele was another new face that lit up the big stage. The 23-year-old finished tied fifth, a shot back of Fleetwood on 10-under.
The popular drawcards, Thomas, who stumbled to a last round 75, first round leader Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, who was nowhere near his best, will have to settle for another season to have a crack at their national Open.
Fowler finished tied for fifth, Thomas tied for ninth and Spieth, for all the pre-tournament backing he received, had to settle for a disappointing tie for 35th.
The US Open stats were knocked over from all angles, but one that really stood out was the fact that no fewer than seven players finished the tournament at 10-under-par or better.
In relation to par, all those players would have won the US Open, barring Tiger Woods’ victory in 2000 (12-under) and McIlroy’s win in 2011 (16-under).
And now, as Koepka’s Erin Hills victory really begins to sink in, the Major focus shifts to the British Open, to be played at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, from July 20-23.
The flurry of activity surrounding the event will not be expected to be any different than it is for all the other Majors, even if this is the only one outside the United States.
The beauty of it, though, for Malaysians, will be the timing. Being just seven hours ahead of UK time, its a lot easier on our sleep patterns than when they (the Majors) are held in the US.
Of course, this will have no bearing whatsoever on Koepka and his team, as they enjoy the moment of deserved success at Erin Hills.