With second US Open title, Brooks Koepka can't be overlooked now
SOUTHAMPTON, USA – Brooks Koepka was practically the last name on anyone's lips at the 118th US Open on Thursday, June 14, but that didn't matter when he hoisted the trophy for a second straight year on Sunday, June 17.
"I always feel like I'm overlooked. It doesn't bug me. I just keep doing what I'm doing, keep plugging away," said Koepka, who despite his defending champion status was flying under the radar at Shinnecock Hills.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, world number one Dustin Johnson and multiple major winner Rory McIlroy were the ones generating pre-tournament buzz.
Some thought Koepka's US Open triumph at Erin Hills last year was an anomaly –coming on a non-traditional championship venue where the wide-open fairways were easy pickings for a long-hitter like Koepka.
And since his major breakthrough, the 28-year-old had missed almost 4 months –including the Masters in April – with a partially torn ligament in his left wrist.
There's no doubt now, however, that Koepka is back, and he has proved his major mettle on the toughest test the US Open can offer.
After 4 grinding days at Shinnecock Hills – which first hosted a US Open in the 19th century – it was Koepka who topped the leaderboard with a one-over par total.
Woods and McIlroy were long gone by then – missing the halfway cut.
Johnson, masterful in building a 4-stroke lead through 36 holes, came back to the field during the brutal 3rd round – when Mickelson underscored his irrelevance with a silly rules infraction.
As Koepka emerged from a tightly bunched field on Sunday, Johnson simply couldn't keep pace.
Even Tommy Fleetwood with a stunning 63 couldn't run Koepka down.
"I don't want to say I didn't think I could do it, but I knew that it was going to be that much more difficult," Koepka said of winning a second major.
"It's much more gratifying the second time. I can really appreciate how hard it is to win a major, and to win back-to-back is special."
'Got to be competing'
Koepka, who has now finished 14th or better – with two wins – in 9 of his last 10 major starts, was running hot with a streak of 8th straight US PGA Tour top-20 finishes when his wrist injury sidelined him.
"I didn't miss it until I knew I wasn't going to be at Augusta," he said. "When I knew I wasn't going to be at Augusta, probably about a week before, I really did miss it."
"I missed the preparation. I miss competing. I've got to be competing at something. It doesn't matter what it is. I just feel like I need to be out grinding."
He has barely missed a beat in his return, finishing tied for 11th at the Players Championship last month and runner-up at the Fort Worth Invitational with 3 rounds of 67 or better as he warmed up for his title defense.
Now that he's a multiple major winner, Koepka – who jumped from 9th to 4th in the world golf rankings with his win – is unlikely to be flying under the radar when any major comes around.
"A US Open is always going to be a tough test," he said. "The Open Championship I think suits (my game) very well, and we always seem to play good at the PGA."
"The only one I haven't figure out is Augusta – hopefully I'll figure that one out soon." – Rappler.com
The extra mile
We are passionate about sports. Whether its a university, local, or international event, we aim to always to go above and beyond with our news, features, and analysis.
However, reader support powers our content. We ask you to take on the extra mile with us.
By joining Rappler PLUS, you will receive special editorial newsletters, industry reports, and invites to exclusive briefings.
But more than that, you will enable us to continue telling more stories.
Make your move now. Join Rappler PLUS.