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Brooks Koepka’s road to back to back US Open titles

Owen Clouting
CONTRIBUTOR
Feature
37   //    20 Jun 2018, 16:53 IST

U.S. Open - Final Round
U.S. Open - Final Round

After another fantastic week of golf, the US Open title goes once again to Brooks Koepka for the second year running, the only player to have achieved this since Curtis Strange who won in 1988-89. To win two majors in the last six years implies a certain degree of dominance in golf, but this is not the case with Koepka, making his two major wins even more impressive.

Brooks Koepka is a young American golfer, who has not had the easy run to gain his success. He did not go rise through the America system like Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth but instead went to Europe in order to rise up the ranks. He signed up to the Challenge Tour in Europe in 2012 and quickly showed his class to the world, winning three tournaments which gave him a European Tour card. He praises the time he spent playing in Europe stating.

"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.' I built a lot of confidence off that" Golf Digest '15 Things You Need To Know About Brooks Koepka'.

It was in 2014 when his game really took off. Koepka won the Turkish Airlines Open and finished well in several other events on the European Tour, giving him an 8th Place finish in Europe's Race to Dubai, this earned him the title of 2014 Rookie of the Year. While he was impressing in Europe he was also breaking through in America, good finishes in the US Open, the PGA Championship and the Frys.com Open resulted in a nomination for the 2014 PGA Rookie of the year award as well.

Apart from winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February 2015, Koepka did not win a golf tournament on the PGA Tour until 2017, while he had impressed over that time with good form in Major tournaments, he could not quite grind out a win. This was until the US Open went to Erin Hills in 2017.

Before teeing up, Kopeka was ranked 22nd in the World, therefore it was no great surprise when he pushed himself into contention. However, he was amongst some very strong players such as Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood, all of which were with him chasing the leader Brian Harman. All of these players were hunting their first major, but it was Koepka who held his nerve the best, carding an incredible five under par final round in blustery conditions, to win by four shots. His maiden Major win boosted Koepka into golfs top ten, confirming himself as a real force in golf.

Winning a first Major tournament effects all golfers differently. Some struggle under the increased pressure and expectation and take a while to settle into this, such as Danny Willet or Keegan Bradley. Others such as Jordan Spieth and Rory Mcilroy are boosted by this and push on to win and compete for further victories. Koepka looked like he would push on instantly, performed well in the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, enforcing the idea that he could recreate his major winning performances again.

This, however, was put in doubt when Koepka suffered a wrist injury in December 2017. He tried to play through this injury in the 'Tournament of Champions', only to finish in the last place, in a performance which showed he clearly was not 100% fit. This began a long road to recovery where Koepka began a hiatus from golf until the wrist was healed, with the aim to be back in time to play in the first Major of the year, The Masters. Unfortunately, this was not to be and Koepka's rest was prolonged even further. When asked about the experience he replied

“I mean, you go from playing some of the best golf I’ve probably ever played to probably being at the lowest point professionally that I’ve been. It wasn’t easy,” New York Post 'Defending champ Brooks Koepka details his injury hell'

The American returned to golf in late April, but it was not until two months ago when Koepka regained his form at The Players Championship. Koepka finished the tournament with a final round 63, reminding the world of just how good he can be. A runner-up position at the Forth Worth Invitational proved that he was in form to defend his US Open title and, less than a month later, that is exactly what he did.

Shinnecock Hills proved an incredibly difficult US Open venue for everyone who competed. Mcilroy, Spieth, Woods and Day were among many of the high profile names who missed the cut this week, as the golf course punished anyone who made even the smallest error. After Day 3, the scene was set for an incredible shootout on Sunday with a four-way tie for the lead, including Koepka and his longtime friend Dustin Johnson. Koepka managed to shake off his fellow co-leaders, and despite a final day 63 from Englishman Tommy Fleetwood, Koepka's two under round was enough to seal the victory and enable him to retain the US Open Championship Trophy for another year. Winning two years on the bounce is an incredible achievement for anyone, but especially for someone who has had such an injury-hampered season.

U.S. Open - Final Round
U.S. Open 2018 winner Brooks Koepka

So congratulations Brooks Koepka, on another brilliant week of golf. From humble beginnings in Europe, it is a great achievement to rise so quickly and seamlessly through the ranks to now be a double major winner. The sky truly is the limit for the American and who knows how many more majors Koepka can collect throughout his career.

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Owen Clouting
CONTRIBUTOR
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