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Koepke is the new US Open Champion


Brooks Koepka whisked up a magical back-nine, birdie burst in the US Open at Erin Hills on Sunday that saw him set an all-time US Open record on his way to capturing his first Major title.

His runaway, four-shot victory, wrapped up with a final round 5-under 67 and a standout 16-under 272 not only made the 27-year-old born-and-bred Florida resident the 7th successive first-time major champion, it also established him as one of the finest of this magnificent seven.

In a gruelling event often won with level-par or close to level-par scores in the past, his 16-under winning total matched the one set in the 2011 US Open by Rory McIlroy who, ironically, was among the big guns who missed this year's cut, three of the others being World No 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, the World No 1 he deposed, and Henrik Stenson the reigning British Open champion.

Koepke disclosed after being presented with the famed US Open trophy and the $2.8 million winner's cheque that Dustin Johnson, a close friend and training partner, had called him after Saturday's third round to offer advice on how to cope with the final round.

"He told me 'Just stay patient. Just keep doing what you're doing, you're going to win the thing. Just don't get ahead of yourself.

"It was a long phone call," Koepke said, but in his view, certainly well worth it.

Fellow American Brian Harman, who had led by one shot at the start of the day as he too chased a first major victory, closed with a disappointing level-par 72 after being locked with Koepke at the top of the leaderboard for much of the round and had to be satisfied with a tie for second with world No 4 Hideki Matsuyama on 12-under, the Japanse star having played some magnificent catch-up golf on his way to shooting a best of the day 6-under 66.

English young gun Tommy Fleetwood came in alone in fourth place with an 11-under after he too had posted a level-par 72.

Perhaps the decisive moment in the stressful Koepke-Harmon battle that was to dominate the stage on the final day came just after the turn, when Harmon, the tournament upstart, ran into bogey trouble with one each on the 12th and 13th holes.

It was the signal, it seemed, for Koepke to open the throttle and surge clear for he was to birdie the next three holes, the 13th, 14th and 15th, open up a four-shot lead and never look back.

Koepke, a muscular and athletic 6-footer, who, unusually for a graduate of US College golf, started his professional career in Europe on the minor Challenge Tour before graduating to the European Tour and then after four of five wins around the world, including a big one at the Turkish Open, made his US PGA Tour breakthrough at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in 2015.

Since then he had come up with a host of runner-up and top five finishes, but as he told reporters on Sunday, "I felt like I put myself in contention so many times," he said. "And I don't want to say I got unlucky, I felt like I just never fully came together. I gave myself some good chances over the majors over the last few years and never really quite came through."

A fourth place finish at the 2014 US Open gave Koepka his first taste of challenging for a major. A tie for fourth at last year's PGA and more top 10 finishes saw more chances slip through his fingers so he was determined not to let his latest opportunity elude him.

At the start of the final day strong winds buffeted Erin Hills's long 7,721-yard layout with bits deep rough and tricky, sloping greens to end three days of calm conditions and low scores, but with the wind slowly weakening as the day wore on, Koepke and Harmon at the back of the field benefitted.

Koepka made the first move, shooting a birdie on the first to go to 12 under and take a share of the lead. He then chipped to within a few feet of the pin for a second successive birdie to lifted him 13 under and put him into solo first place.

Harman, playing in the final pairing behind Koepka, was ready to roll over, striking gold and taking back a share of the lead with a magnificent 29-foot birdie putt on the third.

The two continued to share the lead as the battle of nerves and skill raged for another five holes before rolled home a 33ft stunner that once more saw him edge ahead.

Too much aggression - or was it adrenalin - saw him slip back into a tie with Harmon at the 10th where his approach was too strong and left him with a difficult putt for par that he missed.

Koepka missed another crucial putt at the 11th, this one for a birdie that would have put him back into the lead. Then he saw yet another birdie chance lost when he putt at the 12th lipped out.

But he held himself together determined, this time, not to finish 2nd or 3rd or 4th again and when heard that Harmon's tee-shot at the 12th had landed in deep rough, had to be hacked out on to the fairway and had led to a bogey that had put him back into a one-shot lead at 13-under, his spirits soared and those three stunning birdies in a row turned the contest on its head and saw him march on to victory with three solid pars.

What happened to Justin Thomas, the America young gun who had blazed into the chasing pack on Saturday with a stunning 9-under 63?

Sadly his game and putting skills deserted him in the wind on Sunday and he tumbled back down the leaderboard into a 9th place tie with a closing 75.

(Parr 72 - US unless stated.

272 Brooks Koepka 67-70-68-67
276 Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 74-65-71-66, Brian Harman 67-70-67-72
277 Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 67-70-68-67
278 Xander Schauffele 66-73-70-69, Bill Haas 72-68-69-69, Rickie Fowler 65-73-68-72
279 Charley Hoffman 70-70-68-71
280 Trey Mullinax 71-72-69-68, Brandt Snedeker 70-69-70-71, Justin Thomas 73-69-63-75
281 JB Holmes 69-69-72-71
282 Brendan Steele 71-69-69-73, Patrick Reed 68-75-65-74, Kim Si-Woo (KOR) 69-70-68-75
283 Matt Kuchar 74-71-70-68, Steve Stricker 73-72-69-69, Chez Reavie 75-65-72-71, Eddie Pepperell (ENG) 72-71-69-71, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 69-72-69-73
284 David Lingmerth (SWE) 73-69-71-71, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 70-71-71-72
285 Kevin Chappell 74-70-70-71, Jim Furyk 70-74-69-72, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 74-70-68-73
286 Paul Casey (ENG) 66-71-75-74
287 Scottie Scheffler-a 69-74-71-73, Zach Johnson 71-74-68-74, Jamie Lovemark 69-69-74-75, Marc Leishman (AUS) 68-72-72-75, Russell Henley 71-70-67-79
288 Kevin Na 68-76-73-71, Martin Laird (SCO) 72-71-72-73, Cameron Champ-a 70-69-73-76
289 Jordan Spieth 73-71-76-69, Jordan Niebrugge 73-72-73-71, Martin Kaymer (GER) 72-69-75-73, Brandon Stone (RSA) 70-74-72-73, Webb Simpson 74-71-71-73, Michael Putnam 73-70-71-75, Matt Fitzpatrick (ENG) 70-73-70-76
290 Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP) 72-73-71-74, Andrew Johnston (ENG) 69-73-73-75, Jack Maguire 70-73-71-76, Jonathan Randolph 71-71-73-75
291 Stewart Cink 74-70-76-71, Shane Lowry (IRL) 71-74-73-73, Harris English 71-69-75-76
292- Gary Woodland 72-73-73-74, Kim Meen-Whee (KOR) 73-70-72-77, Branden Grace (RSA) 72-72-71-77
294 Jason Kokrak 75-70-74-75, Ryan Brehm 71-74-72-77, Satoshi Kodaira (JPN) 73-69-73-76
295 Ernie Els (RSA) 70-72-79-74, William McGirt 70-71-79-75, Lee Westwood (ENG) 69-75-75-76
296 Kevin Kisner 74-70-76-76, Thomas Aiken (RSA) 71-71-75-79
297 Keegan Bradley 72-73-75-77, Yusaku Miyazato (JPN) 72-70-76-79, Stephan Jaeger (GER) 71-73-74-79, Adam Hadwin (CAN) 68-74-75-80
298 Kevin Dougherty 71-72-80-75
300 Daniel Summerhays 73-72-74-81
301 Talor Gooch 74-71-76-80
303 Tyler Light 73-72-78-80
310 Li Haotong (CHN) 74-70-82-84.

Neville Leck

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