South Hampton, Long Island – It had been 29 years since anyone defended their title at the U.S Open (Curtis Strange 88-89), but as Brooks Koepka stated early in the week in winning at the 2018 U.S. Open – “Nobody here is more confident than me.” and this, “Someone is going to have to come and take the trophy from me.” The 28 year old from West Palm Beach (who now resides in Jupiter along with half of the PGA Tour) backed up that statement, especially after carding an opening round 75 at the 2018 U.S. Open. In fact, at one point early in round 2 on Friday, Koepka was +7 and in danger of missing the cut. He flipped Friday’s second round, shooting 66 to get back in the championship. Weekend rounds of 72-68 followed for a one-stroke victory over Tommy Fleetwood who narrowly missed a putt at the last that would have been a record setting 62. As it turned out, the missed 8 footer was the slim margin between solo second place and a playoff. Fleetwood’s 63 was the low round at any U.S Open ever held at Shinnecock Hills (also tying the championship record), breaking the previous mark of 65 that was matched by Rickie Fowler on Sunday (which was 19 strokes better than the 84 Fowler shot on Saturday).
Brooks isn’t your typical golf obsessed professional, when he missed 3 months earlier in the season with a wrist injury he found that he missed the game and the competition, but when he returned he didn’t miss a beat with his golf swing. It all came right back immediately, no rust at all “I don’t need to practice every single day. It’s the same game I’ve been playing for 24 years now. I know what I’m doing. I know how to swing a golf club. It’s just a game that I’ve been playing my entire life.”
Once again the USGA flagship event, 2018 U.S. Open, was riddled with two big controversies in South Hampton. Both occurred during Saturday’s third round. For one, the course set up once again got a bit too severe (2004 revisited) when the winds picked up during the afternoon, causing several putts and well struck shots to roll off into disastrous spots. The USGA has to find a method that allows some margin of error in its set up in case mother nature becomes a factor. Especially at seaside venues where it’s almost a certainty.
Second would be the blatant rules infraction by Phil Mickelson. First of all, it looked horrible and Phil’s explanation of how and why was even worse. Clearly it didn’t quite go down as he stated, and several witnesses within the group verified that he made statements to officials and others right after it happened (on the 13th green) that completely contradicted his well-rehearsed post round media session. Obviously, chasing after/swatting back a moving ball was an act of frustration with the set up, a meltdown. Clearly embarrassed, he contrived a story about always wanting to hit a moving ball to save further damage to his scorecard, and decided that he would do it right then and there. Sometimes trying to be the most clever guy in the room backfires, and this was the perfect example. It’s been a brilliant 26 year career, filled with generosity and giving back to the game, but somehow that moment and the cover-up that followed might be the one lasting memory for many from the 2018 U.S. Open.
With the victory Brooks Koepka has moved up 33 spots to 13th in the Fedex Cup standings, and 4th in the Official World Golf Rankings.