Long road: Koepka's journey now includes a US Open title

Solenn Plantier
Juin 19, 2017

Brooks Koepka has won the U.S. Open, the first major title of his career, finishing 16 under par for the tournament.

Brooks Koepka poses with the winning trophy after the U.S. Open golf tournament Sunday, June 18, 2017, at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis.

The long-hitting American traveled far and wide, from Kazakhstan to Kenya and mainland Europe, cramming into bed and breakfast rooms with fellow players, spending some nights sleeping in cars, and learning about life and how to win.

THEY'RE IN: Top-10 finishes at Erin Hills will allow Xander Schauffele and Trey Mullinax to return to the U.S. Open next year.

Koepka, who finished at 16-under 272, became the seventh straight first-time victor of a major championship, and it was the first time since 1998-2000 that Americans won their national championship three straight years.

His confidence in the final round came, in part, from a short conversation the night before with Dustin Johnson, a friend who had been through his share of close calls and heartbreaks before finally becoming a major champion at the U.S. Open past year.

Harman won the 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur.

Furyk, next year's Ryder Cup captain for the United States at Le Golf National, reached the 10-under mark with a 67 in the third round presenting himself with a three-shot lead over Australia's Stephen Leaney. That was four shots clear of Hideki Matsuyama and Brian Harman. Koepka, playing one group ahead of Harman, is at 13 under.

However, Harman eventually stumbled with back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13 and his rival found peak form at the flawless moment - birdieing three holes in a row from the 14th to all but wrap up the tournament.

It capped quite a journey for the Floridian. There were 133 sub-par rounds, nine more than the previous record in that 1990 U.S. Open.

The miscues put Koepka alone back on top of the leaderboard, a perch from which he would not be removed.

On Sunday, he added Erin Hills in Wisconsin to the list - the stop that made all those frequent flier miles worth it. And then he made birdie on the next hole. Smiles are rare at a U.S. Open when a player finishes before the leaders tee off. It features a silhouette of Palmer in mid-stride, tossing his visor in the air. Palmer shot a 65 after going into the final round trailing by seven shots. He had been on the road for so long, in so many different countries, and was feeling lonely. The final-round average was 77.2, and 20 players shot in the 80s.

"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's just like Dustin, I would say".

Rickie Fowler, who is two shots back, said after his round Saturday that he was hoping the wind would pick up to make the course tougher. As an alternative, he began spending his days at West Palm Beach's public Okeeheelee Golf Course, where he played in a junior program, dominated early, and never looked back. And now he's got a major win under his belt.

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