Koepka was trending toward major victory

Brooks Koepka didn’t leave a lot of room for misinterpretation.

 

Anybody who doubted the 27-year-old’s credentials acquired on a long global road through Spain, Italy, Scotland, Kazakhstan, Japan and Turkey before settling home in America should stop shaking their heads after Koepka’s emphatic victory in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

Forget the lower than typical scores. Forget the wider than usual fairways. Forget the fact Koepka’s curriculum vitae only included one victory each on the European and PGA tours.

Koepka has been trending toward Sunday’s clinching clinic for a few years on the major stages. In making 12 consecutive major cuts before last week, he’d finished 21st or better nine times, including three top-fives.

His power and finesse are made for these kind of events.

He closed it out on Sunday with a ruthless efficiency that should make his peers quake – averaging 322 yards off the tee while hitting 87.5 percent of fairways and 86.1 percent of greens. If you squinted your eyes a little, his physique and casual confidence were the spitting image of his workout partner and friend, Dustin Johnson.

They are the athletic models that are redefining what it means to be a modern golfer.

Get used to him.

Meanwhile, there was a lot more to digest from a very unconventional U.S. Open:

BOGEY: OWGR top 3. The first time since the Official World Golf Rankings launched in 1986, the top three players – Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day – failed to make the cut at any major. That snapped a 125-major streak.

BIRDIE: Brian Harman. “I don’t believe in moral victories,” said the 30-year-old ex-Bulldog from Savannah after finishing runner-up. His dogged grit couldn’t quite keep up with Koepka’s power, but it will only fuel him going forward.

BOGEY: Johnson. The world No. 1 peaked too soon this year and missed the weekend at both the Masters (WD) and U.S. Open (MC). If he can avoid stairs and having any more kids the next two major weeks, he should be fine.

BIRDIE: Hideki Matsuyama. The now-No. 2 golfer in the world made yet another major charge with a Sunday 66 to finish runner-up. It’s just a matter of time before the 25-year-old Japanese star starts winning majors in bunches.

BOGEY: Jon Rahm. The young and gifted Spaniard’s passion boiled over into public tantrums frequently as he was frustrated by his MC at Erin Hills. It was not a good look. “Just imagine a Coca-Cola bottle,” he said of his inability to temper his temper. “You shake it once … if you open it, it’s a complete mess.”

BIRDIE: Cameron Champ. History repeated itself, with the Texas A&M star getting nicked by Scottie Scheffler for low amateur honors, just like he did at Sage Valley in 2014.But Champ left a lasting impression with his field-best 337.3-yard driving average – 11 and 15 yards longer than bombers J.B. Holmes and Koepka, respectively.

PAR: Justin Thomas. As impressive as his record-tying 9-under 63 was Saturday, it gets lost in the footnotes when you follow it up with a Sunday 75 and never feature from the final pairing.

BOGEY: Rickie Fowler. The first-day leader let another opportunity slip away with just a T5 to show for it. A repeat of his Masters fade in April.

PAR: Rory McIlroy. Sure, he missed the cut after saying there were no excuses for avoiding the generous room between Erin Hill’s high fescue borders. But it was only his second start since the Masters because of recurring rib injury that required two extended rests this season. He’ll win at Quail Hollow.

BOGEY: Steve Elkington. McIlroy’s snark game was strong when he rejected the 1995 PGA champ’s misguided Twitter criticism claiming Rory was “bored” with golf, and had reached his threshold at four majors and $100 million. “More like 200mil… not bad for a ‘bored’ 28 year old… plenty more where that came from,” McIlroy responded, with a screen grab of his Wikipedia accomplishments that tower over Elk’s.

BIRDIE: Gary Player. Keeping with the Twitter feuds, Player threw some Jedi-level shade on a long-simmering battle since 2015 with Chambers Bay architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. “Whilst he seems to be suffering from either amnesia or senility … enough is enough,” Player said of RTJ Jr., who dredged up the feud after the hatchet had previously been buried.

TRIPLE: Paul Casey. After an epic Friday comeback from dropping five shots in four holes to making five birdies in a row to reclaim a share of lead, another triple early Saturday proved too much to overcome en route to a solo 26th.

BIRDIE: Beef Johnston. Europe’s bearded version of Boo Weekley keeps winning over fans with his infectious smile. Passing out all-expense paid trips to the British Open, courtesy of sponsor Arby’s, to fellow hirsute fans made him even more popular.

BOGEY: First impressions. An advertising blimp crashing in a fiery heap and some drinking water testing positive for e coli bacteria made for a rough start for the Wisconsin venue hoping to build a good reputation.

BOGEY: Patrick Reed vs. Russell Henley. With a contentious history dating back to their Georgia days, perhaps we shouldn’t have expected more than Reed’s 74 and Henley’s 79 when they went out in contention Sunday, fourth from last.

BIRDIE: Sergio Garcia. The only one of the previous six consecutive first-time major winners who made the cut, tying at 23rd with Jim Furyk and Louis Oosthuizen as the best prior major winners.

BIRDIE: Steve Stricker. Wisconsin’s favorite son finished T16 as a qualifier at age 50 and gave a final thrill to a 94-year-old fan, who passed peacefully after seeing Stricker’s sand save on No. 6 Friday.

PAR: Ernie Els. In his 25th consecutive U.S. Open start, he lingered on the leaderboard for two days and finished 55th. With his eligibility expired, the two-time champion deserves special exemptions at Shinnecock (where he played in final pairing in 2004) and Pebble Beach (where he’s finished second and third).

BIRDIE: Loves. With his Hall of Fame father caddying, Davis Love IV broke par in the first round before barely missing the cut. It was still a heckuva Father’s Day week for them.

BOGEY: Danny Willett. Struggles continue for the 2016 Masters winner who withdrew after opening 81.

BIRDIE: Amanda Mickelson. Born the day after the 1999 U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson’s daughter once again commanded the attention of the six-time runner-up with her conflicting graduation address that prompted his withdrawal. Some things in life are more valuable than golf tournaments.

BOGEY: Wesley Bryan. The Augusta resident’s major debut spiraled out of control with 83 that required 45 strokes on his final nine and left him only one amateur qualifier removed from finishing dead last. It’ll get better.

BIRDIE: Paul Azinger. Veteran analyst added much-needed credibility to the Fox broadcast team.

BOGEY: Joe Buck. Fox needs to be able to do better than a primary announcer who, at the most crucial moment of the broadcast, misstates the number of consecutive first-time major winners and identifies the wrong name of the champion’s girlfriend. You think Jim Nantz would have done that?

BOGEY: Geico. A sponsor to one of several planes that invaded our ears with a constant background buzz that felt like cicadas boring into our collective brains. It made the vuvuzelas seem tame by comparison.

PAR: USGA. From responding to player feedback by cutting back some of the fescue before the tournament to not interfering with any rules controversies, they played it safe and left relatively unscathed.

BIRDIE: Erin Hills. Soft greens and mostly weak winds didn’t make for the sternest U.S. Open test, but the big roiling canvas certainly warrants some kind of future significant event like a PGA Championship or Ryder Cup.

 

Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or scott.michaux@augustachronicle.com.

 

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