Brooks Koepka headed into the US Open as the 9th ranked player in the world. His first round 75 left spectators wondering if he’d even make the cut if he continued playing the same way Friday, but a 66 second round catapulted him into the top three and suddenly the storyline was in the making.
As one of the players who had to face the same-but-completely-different course Saturday as one of the groups that teed off in the afternoon, Koepka survived while others like Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson struggled tremendously. If anyone thinks the afternoon groups played the same course as the morning tee times, just look at the tee times of the top scores vs. worst scores of the day:
Top 3: Tony Finau (10:57 am tee time, 66 score), Daniel Berger (10:13 am tee time, 66 score), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (9:40 am tee time, 68 score).
Bottom 4: Rickie Fowler (2:26pm tee time, 84 score), Patrick Rodgers (1:20pm tee time, 83 score), Andrew Johnston (11:30am tee time, 82 score), Tyler Duncan (1:31pm tee time, 81 score).
Sunday the course looked much better, and some of the very outspokenly critical players might have added to that. Zach Johnson (despite shooting his best round of the tournament of 72 and playing in the morning) held nothing back when interviewed after the round.
“The latter part of the day for us is pretty much shot, which is unfortunate. It’s in my opinion some of the best land and certainly one of the best venues in all of golf. Shinnecock Hills is beautiful, but unfortunately, they’ve lost the golf course.I feel for the membership right now. I feel for the spectators who are seeing absolute pure carnage, unless they want to. I feel for the USGA because I don’t think that was their overall intent from the very beginning. When it comes to things that happen in the past, you got to err on the side of a conservative approach. And that wasn’t done today.”
The day belonged to Brooks Koepka though, who took an early lead Sunday and held onto it from the time he started through the 18th hole. Dustin Johnson’s 4 shot lead after 36 holes sets the record for the largest lead held through two rounds without winning the event. Add it to the long list of what-if majors that Dustin Johnson could have but did not win.
Koepka becomes just the seventh player to win back-to-back US opens, joining the likes of Curtis Strange, Ben Hogan, and Bobby Jones. His stroke difference of 17 marks the largest difference between two consecutive winning scores by a back to back champion.
Thursday morning before the start of the Open, we posted our 15 players to watch at Shinnecock. 12 of those 15 players made the cut and impressively, we had the top 7 players on our list (missing Tyrrell Hatton and Daniel Berger who were also in the four way tie for 6th place). At one point on Saturday, the top 9 players on the board were all on our players to watch.
Of the 15 players we selected, their combined purse was more than the resulting 141 players in the open (totaling $6,495,049 of the $12 million purse).
Full details and stats below: