U.S. Open Golf

Brooks Koepka ties record score, captures 1st major championship at U.S. Open

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Brooks Koepka ties record score, captures 1st major championship at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. -- Brooks Koepka received a short piece of advice from a valuable source on the eve of the final round at the U.S. Open.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson was doing most of the talking.

"It was a long phone call for us -- it was like two minutes," Koepka said. "But he just said a few things, and just stay patient. And I'll win if I stay patient and just keep doing what I'm doing."

What he did looked awfully familiar Sunday at Erin Hills, minus any mess involving the rules.

With athleticism and power, and four straight putts over the back nine that allowed him to pull away, Koepka capped off his hardscrabble journey around the world and found stardom at home as the U.S. Open champion.

He closed with a 5-under 67, only realizing after his par on the final hole that a birdie would have set yet another U.S. Open record in a week filled with them.

Koepka finished at 16-under 272, matching the lowest score to par first set by Rory McIlroy six years ago at Congressional.

Tied for the lead with six holes to play, Koepka holed an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole that gave him confidence with his stroke and momentum to pour in birdies on the next three holes to turn the final hour into a celebration of another young star in golf.

The 27-year-old Koepka wound up winning by four shots over Brian Harman, who was done in by back-to-back bogeys right when Koepka was making his run, and Hideki Matsuyama, who closed with a 66.

"That's probably the most emotion I've ever shown coming down the stretch," Koepka said. "It feels amazing to get my name on this trophy with so many other great names. It's truly an honor."

Emotion? The most he displayed was a light fist pump, his hand clenched a little tighter with each birdie, and a double fist pump on the 18th when he tapped in for par.

It's not much different from Johnson.

They are close friends on the golf course and in the gym, and they play a similar game of power off the tee, a clean strike with the iron and a knack for looking calm even as the pressure is ramping up.

And now their names are on the U.S. Open trophy, one after the other.

It capped quite a journey for the Floridian. Without a card on any tour when Koepka got out of Florida State, he filled his passport on the Challenge Tour with stamps from Kazakhstan to Kenya, Scotland and Spain, India and the Madeira Island.

One night in Scotland, he called his agent and wanted to come home, even though he was leading the tournament. He had been on the road for so long, in so many different countries, and was feeling lonely. He won the next day to graduate to the European Tour. The next year, he earned a spot in the U.S. Open through a qualifier in England, and his tie for fourth at Pinehurst No. 2 helped him earn a card on the PGA Tour.

Koepka took it from there -- a victory in Turkey against a strong field, his first PGA Tour victory in the Phoenix Open, his first Ryder Cup and now a major championship.

"To go over there, I think it helped me grow up a little bit and really figure out that, hey, play golf, get it done, and then you can really take this somewhere," he said.

Koepka became the seventh straight first-time winner of a major championship, and it was the first time since 1998-2000 that Americans won their national championship three straight years.

Tommy Fleetwood, who played alongside Koepka and closed with a 72 to finish fourth, played the Challenge Tour a year before Koepka arrived.

"It gives you a good grounding," Fleetwood said. "Obviously, Brooks dealt with it amazingly. He came and kicked everyone's (behind) over there, didn't he? But he's proven for a long time how good he is. Now he's done it in a major."

It was only fitting that Koepka left Erin Hills with yet another record matched or broken.

McIlroy finished at 16-under 268 when he won on rain-softened Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open. But the low scoring went much deeper than that. Only six players had ever reached double digits under par in the previous 116 times at the U.S. Open. McIlroy and Tiger Woods (12 under at Pebble Beach in 2000) had been the only players to finish there.

This week alone, nine players reached at least 10 under and seven finished there.

Xander Schauffele, a rookie on the PGA Tour playing in his first U.S. Open, birdied his last hole for a 69 to tie for fifth at 10-under 268 along with Bill Haas (69) and Rickie Fowler (72), who was poised at yet another major to win only to fall back. Fowler started one shot out of the lead at the Masters this year and shot 76. He was only two behind when he made the turn, but bogeys on the 12th and 15th holes -- and no birdies until No. 18 -- ended his hopes.

Justin Thomas, coming off a 9-under 63 that matched the major championship scoring record and was the first 9-under round at a U.S. Open, went out in 39 and closed with a 75 to tie for ninth.

The week ended with 31 players under par, breaking the U.S. Open record of 28 players at Medinah in 1990. There were 133 sub-par rounds, nine more than the previous record in that 1990 U.S. Open.

Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

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Drexel's Chris Crawford soaks up tradition at U.S. Open

ERIN, Wis. — The U.S. Open is all about tradition. This week is the 117th playing of golf's national championship and this event more than most celebrates those golfers who play the game as amateurs. 

Soon-to-be Drexel graduate Chris Crawford has been soaking up all the traditions this week at Erin Hills. Playing in his second U.S. Open after qualifying through both local and sectional competition for the second straight year, an extremely difficult feat, the 23-year-old fifth-year senior enjoyed the amateur dinner put on by the tournament organizers with the USGA. Crawford and his fellow amateurs, a stout list including Texas' Scottie Scheffler, who shot 3-under Thursday to seize the early low amateur lead, were celebrated the entire evening — one of Crawford's early highlights in a long week here in Wisconsin. 

Crawford produced a 3-over par 75 Thursday during the first round to tie for 102nd out of a field of 156 players.

"I played OK (Thursday)," Crawford said. "I'm going to take more positives than negatives out of the round. I played really well for 14 holes and just had a few bad swings on the other four holes."

Indeed, Thursday morning started nervously for the former Drexel golf standout. On the opening par-5 first hole, he snap-hooked his drive into the weeds out of bounds to the left, resulting in a double bogey. Three holes later, he chipped one shot over the back of the fourth green and took another double-bogey, placing him 4-over through four holes. 

Although bogeys might keep many of us alive in our weekend matches, it doesn't cut it in a U.S. Open. Crawford responded well in the ensuing 14 holes, going 1-under in that stretch.

Crawford's coach Mike Dynda, who teaches him at LuLu Country Club in Glenside, Pennsylvania, said he makes a big point to prepare Crawford's mind for his big rounds.

"I texted him last night and said, 'When you got to sleep, imagine that you're on the 18th hole and you have a putt for 9-under,'" Dynda said. "It's important to go to sleep and dream like that."

On the other side, Dynda — who taught the golf team at Drexel from 2003-2015 — also told his pupil to stay away from expectations. When you're 23 and you're playing in your second consecutive U.S. Open, one might think it would be easy to get ahead of yourself. Not so with Crawford, according to Dynda.

"I've taught him to not have any expectations for the five years we've been together," Dynda said. 

Crawford had a superstar practice round on Monday, playing with Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk and Wisconsin's own Steve Stricker.

"It was a lot of fun playing with those guys and just watching them strategize about learning a brand new U.S. Open course," Crawford said. "I think that's the biggest thing I was impressed with, was the way they talked about strategy on this golf course.

"They were all very nice with me and were very specific to ask about me and they wanted to learn a little bit about my life, so I appreciated that."

For Dynda, talking with Furyk brought back a fond memory. Furyk's father, Mike, actually sold Dynda his first set of golf clubs, Tommy Armor 845s, back in Philadelphia years ago. 

With one round in the books and the forecast calling for rain this weekend, Crawford was looking forward to having the proper mentality as he headed into Friday's second round.

"I want to go out there and just not get ahead of myself," Crawford said. "I'm going to think positively and appreciate that I'm playing in the national open."

Crawford teed off at 2:31 p.m. local time off of the 10th hole.

"This week is so cool because I never do something like this," Crawford said. "Playing in front of such large crowds is a treat and I just love the interaction with the fans before and after the rounds as well."

Last year at Oakmont, dozens of friends and family made the drive down the turnpike to see him play in his first U.S. Open. This year, Crawford estimates that he has around 15 friends and family out in the galleries cheering him on. Though coach Dynda caddied last year, those duties have gone to current Drexel golf coach Ben Feld.

It's a party this week of Drexel golf proportions.

Dustin Johnson wins US Open at Oakmont for first major title

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Dustin Johnson wins US Open at Oakmont for first major title

OAKMONT, Pa. -- All the chaos and confusion couldn't stop Dustin Johnson from proving he had the head to be a U.S. Open champion.

One year after the most devastating of all his close calls in the major, Johnson endured two hours of not knowing the size of his lead while the USGA questioned whether he should be penalized one stroke for his ball moving on the fifth green.

Johnson said it didn't. The USGA said it would wait until after the final round to decide.

America's most powerful golfer took matters into his own hands Sunday at Oakmont with a 10-foot par save on the 16th hole, a tee shot he smashed down the middle of the 18th fairway and an approach to 5 feet for birdie that left no doubt who won the toughest test in golf.

Only after he was guaranteed that silver trophy did the USGA assess him a one-shot penalty, turning his final score into a 1-under 69 for a three-shot victory.

The lingering question was whether this U.S. Open was tougher than it needed to be.

Johnson had a short par putt on the fifth hole, took a few practice strokes and as he placed the putter behind the ball, it moved slightly -- backward. Johnson stepped back and called over the rules official, told him it didn't move and he tapped in for par.

The USGA later decided to review it, and the timing was peculiar.

Johnson was in deep rough left of the 10th fairway when he was given relief from a television tower in his line-of-sight to the flag. He was able to move left toward the 11th fairway and drop it in the first cut of rough, and he powered it over the tower and onto the green, setting up a par. It was a huge break -- within the rules -- the kind that major champions often get.

One hole later, the USGA informed they had questions about the ball moving on No. 5.

"After looking at video, the actions he took could have caused the ball to move," said Jeff Hall, director of rules and open championships for the USGA. "We asked if there was some other reason the ball could have moved. He didn't state a reason."

The USGA wanted him to know that a one-shot penalty was likely so he could play accordingly, but it led to confusion over the back nine -- for Johnson and for the players trying to catch him.

Shane Lowry, who began the final round with a four-shot lead that he lost on the front nine, caught him when Johnson made his only bogey on the back nine. Were they tied? Was Johnson one shot behind? No one knew.

Johnson played through it all, thinking only of that silver trophy that got away from him at Chambers Bay last year when he had a 12-foot eagle putt to win and then three-putted for par to lose by one to Jordan Spieth.

Lowry, the first player since Payne Stewart at The Olympic Club in 1998 to lose a four-shot lead in the final round of the U.S. Open, lost his putting touch that had carried him to the lowest 54-hole total at Oakmont. He three-putted from long range on three straight holes, and Johnson was flawless at the end.

Johnson finished at 4-under 276.

He gave three quick fist-pumps when the birdie putt fell on the 18th, hugged his brother, Austin, who caddies for him and scooped up his son Tatum on Father's Day.

Among the first to greet him was Jack Nicklaus, who won his first major at Oakmont in 1962. The gold medal for the winner is named after Nicklaus.