Brooks Koepka didn’t just win his first major tournament on Sunday at Erin Hills Golf Course, he made history doing it. The 27-year-old American tied a U.S. Open scoring record, finishing 16-under 272 at the expansive but easy-playing course 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee.
Koepka, who became the seventh straight first-time winner of a major, finished the tournament strong, closing with three straight birdies on the back nine and shooting a 5-under 67. His par on the last hole tied Rory McIlroy's record 16-under par at the 2011 U.S. Open and gave him a four-shot victory. Koepka won $2.16 million, which is the highest single-day payout in golf.
After a sun-soaked, picture-perfect first round and off-and-on rain Saturday, the expected wind never blew very hard on Sunday, sending already-high scores soaring and resulting in what will be considered the easiest U.S. Open course of all time. Often, a 5-under par is good enough to win this tournament; at Erin Hills, more players finished in double digits under par (seven) than had ever even reached 10-under in the previous 116 editions of the U.S. Open.
The week concluded with 31 players under par, breaking the tournament’s record of 28 that happened at Medinah in 1990, and the 133 subpar rounds this year were nine more than the previous high at that 1990 Open.
Of the 155 participants who enjoyed the long course, wide fairways and ultimately immaterial fescue grass at 11-year-old Erin Hills, which was hosting its first major PGA championship, Koepka played it the best. On the same holes in the same conditions with the same stakes and rewards on the line, no one finished within three strokes of Koepka, who won his second PGA tournament on Sunday by sailing through the back nine. By the 16th hole, what had been a close, four-horse race was no longer really in doubt, as the 6-foot Floridian birdied 16 to cap his brilliant stretch run.
While the big names were mostly gone from contention after two rounds, the relatively unknown Koepka emerged from the large group of unfamiliar names still remaining during the weekend, and his historic performance signals his arrival in a sport somewhat transitioning from a struggling old guard to exciting new kids. Still, Koepka’s low-key, understated style – mildly pumping his first after his birdies – may not offer the sizzle some in golf want in their next star.
"What I've done this week is amazing. That's probably the most emotion I've ever shown coming down the stretch," Koepka said of his fist-pumping celebration. "It feels amazing to get my name on this trophy with so many other great names. It's truly an honor."
First-round leader Rickie Fowler show a 72 on Sunday and finished at 10 under, which tied for fifth. Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and American Brian Harman tied for second, at 12 under, with Britain’s Tommy Fleetwood in fourth place at 11 under. Americans Xander Schauffele, a rookie, and Bill Haas rounded out the top five. Madison’s Steve Stricker finished tied for 16th at 5 under, while Mequon native Jordan Niebrugge tied with young superstar Jordan Spieth for 35th place at 1-over par.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.