Golf Capital: Koepka beats the USGA, again, plus farewell to a champion.

@hamishneal

American Brooks Koepka claimed his national open for the second year running with a one stroke triumph in the second major of 2018 – the US Open. It was a week of controversy in New York and elsewhere So Yeon Ryu won her first LPGA title of the year with a two-stroke triumph in Michigan.

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Opening Drive

Brooks Koepka survived the carnage of Shinnecock Hills to claim back-to-back US Opens on Sunday having recovered from on opening round of 75 (five over) before going 66-72-68 to beat home Tommy Fleetwood by one stroke with half-way leader Dustin Johnson a further stroke back.

 

A rampaging 63 by Fleetwood early on Sunday set the marker on the final day as the seven-under made the leaders work before Koepka made some clutch putts in the final nine to shut the door on those out on the course.

 

Se Yeon Ryu won for the first time since June 2017 when she shot a final round 67 to beat Germany’s Caroline Masson with Kiwi Lydia Ko in third.

 

This week the US PGA Tour is in Connecticut for the Traveler’s Championship with the LPGA Tour venturing to Arkansas for the tournament won by Ryu last year the Arkansas Championship. The European Tour resumes in Germany with the BMW International in Pulheim’s Gut Larchenhof course.

 

Player performance notes
Looking at some players of interest this week on the PGA Tour. Treading carefully the week after a major it’s to Cromwell and the TPC River Highlands track in Connecticut for an event won last year by Jordan Spieth – the Traveler’s Championship.

 

Under 20: Patrick Reed.  The Masters champ rallied for a fourth place finish in Southampton at the US Open and was only three back from Spieth here last year.

 

20 to 50: Daniel Berger. Second behind Spieth last year here. Berger led for part of the US Open and has a good record of repeat form at familiar venues having won the St Jude Classic in 2016 and 2017.

 

20 to 50: Xander Schaufelle. The American was T14 at this tournament last year on debut at the courses before winning the Greenbrier two weeks later. That was coming off a fifth-placed US Open finish and he was T6 on the weekend.

 

20 to 50: Bubba Watson. The two-time Masters champion is also a dual winner at this tournament but his form has subsided in the last three months since posting wins in the WGC Match Play and Genesis Open in LA. He’s also not played a large volume in that period
Greens in regulation

 

On the winner in Long Island. Koepka, 28, has now won every year since he turned professional in 2012. A career which started out via the European Tour’s second tier Challenge Tour has not only seen him yield ten wins in total but his two major wins are also accompanied by a victory in Turkey in 2014 in what was a Race to Dubai feature European Tour event so he’s had a habit of winning big tournaments. Koepka, who has also won twice in Japan, now moves to number four in the world and the diversity of his major wins (16 under at Erin Hills in Wisconsin last year to plus one this year) show he is not a one-dimensional player.

 

Away from the winner the two biggest controversies were the course and Phil Mickelson, whose career slam prospects look increasingly like they will fade into the fescue after another US Open without the win.

 

Mickelson, on the par four 13th on Saturday, raked back a putt as the ball was rolling away to salvage a horror hole and incurred a two-stroke penalty in doing so. Mickelson eventually finished 15 strokes from Koepka but could have easily been disqualified if the USGA choose to do so. The American could also have withdrawn himself, a prospect thrown up by some fellow professionals including Australian Scott Hend, but Hend also notes it would have put the pressure on the USGA around the course set-up. The vagaries in the USGA’s explanation don’t sit well and if any of the leaders had made a similar move on Sunday it would have been an interesting precedent to monitor after what happened on Saturday.

 

The tournament was impacted by the course set-up, overly so in some cases with a few pin placements causing havoc. It felt as if a series of players were disadvantaged depending on the draw (see Fleetwood, Tommy.) However, the leaderboard did feature star names and deserving players. It’s also difficult to say Koepka didn’t work hard for the win.

 

For those that enjoy seeing professionals struggle after the last month of 23 under , 20 under, 15 under (with a playoff) and 19 under as the winning scores on the PGA Tour having the winner of a major come in at one over is certainly something which offers a point of difference. But USGA boss Mike Davis does seem to enjoy the celebrity of the role a little too much but at some point it isn’t a good look to have greens getting watered just after the last group on Saturday is going through them.

 

Tap in

Sad news to finish the week with the passing of Peter Thomson, not only a multiple major winner but a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.  From 1954 to 1965 Thomson claimed the British Open five times. This was an era which also saw Gary Player, Arnold Palmer and Bob Charles claim the claret jug which underscores the quality of the period.

 

A course designer as well in his career Thomson was a prolific winner with 84 titles. This included wins in the German, Hong Kong, Indian, Italian, Spanish Opens plus the Australian and New Zealand opens, each on multiple occasions.

 

There is a great Movietone video on The Open Twitter account of one of Thomson’s triumphs. Take a look.

 

Image via cnn.com

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