19th Hole

Greg Ellis
Great Golf Academy
Goodyear, AZ

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Brooks Koepka Does Not Succumb to USGA Travesty

The 118th U.S. Open wrapped up this past Father’s Day and again the USGA could not help but insert their organization into the story of golf, overshadowing the champion. Shinnecock Hills was a magnificant layout that the USGA Tried to screw up again. The golf course was a very challenging test for the best players in the world and we saw one of the best, Brooks Koepka, win his second consecutive US Open. He became the seventh player to win back to back. Brooks hadn’t been born when Curtis Strange won back to back US Opens in 1988 and 1989.

Day one was an absolute slaughter of the best players in the world as well as those that quailified for the Open that are not on Tour. The scores were high and it was actually quite boring to watch as there was nothing memorable and no roars from the New York crowd. The scores ranged from 69 to 92. This was the first indication that the USGA was not going to have another Erin Hills total score. They say you can’t win a tournaent on Thursday; but, you can lose one. This was never so true as it was for this past month’s US Open. Some of the best players like Tiger, Rory, Jordan, Jason and Phil shot themselves in the foot right from the start, as evidenced by Tiger playing the first two holes 7 over par. Rory was 2 over par on the first hole. Four players sat on top with their one under par 69s; Dustin Johnson, Scott Piercy, Russell Henley and Ian Poulter.

Day two was not much better for some of the day one leaders. Henley shot 73; Poulter shot 72 going a triple bogey – bogey on holes 7 and 8; Piercy shot 71 and Dustin shot the second lowest score of the day 67 to take a four shot lead into Saturday. Everyone was anoiting Dustin as the winner and I was saying ‘hold on, there are still 36 holes left and anything can happen’ especially if the USGA is involved. The cut came at 8 over par. This was one of the highest cuts that I can remember in a long time.

My words could not have been more true as Saturday was another bloodfest. There were only three rounds in the sixties and the highest score was 83. The greens became difficult, firm and the hole locations were a joke. Remember what I said about not anointing Dustin? After having a four shot lead going into Saturday, he let everyone back in the tournament by firing 77. I figured he would shoot 72 or better but the USGA was not going to have anything to do with that.

Day four found some very interesting pairings. Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Dustin and Brooks Koepka were all tied at 3 over par. Berger and Finau were in the final group and BFF’s, Johnson and Koepka were in the penultimate group. Everyone was focused on Dustin and Brooks except for the rest of the field. There were runs by Masters Champion Patrick Reed, Tony Finau and Tommy Fleetwood.  

Fleetwood was the hottest pursuer who posted a US Open low score for the week and tied for the lowest score in US Open history, 7 under par 63. He was in the clubhouse for over an hour while Dustin, Brooks, Patrick and Tony all fought it out.  

Slowly but surely, one by one, those getting close to the lead stumbled coming home. There was one exception to that and it was the defending champion, who earlier in the week had said he was quite confident and would be the one to beat.  He had said he wasn’t ready to give up his trophy. Firing a final round 68 was all he needed to hold on to and win by one shot over a player that will be in the hunt in many more majors, Tommy Fleetwood. This year was not a walk in the park for Brooks Koepka like it was last year but the best player this week won our National Championship. Koepka was steady. He never looked frazzled or nervous. Koepka was in complete control. As for Dustin Johnson, will he continue to show Koepka the ropes? I am sure he will.

Brooks Koepka showed more intestinal fortitude, coming back from a wrist injury that kept him out of the Masters, and survived the ineptness of the USGA again. He became the youngest to win US Opens back to back; and the 22nd player to win multiple US Opens. He is going to be a great US Open Champion for another year.  

This was supposed to be a shining moment in golf for the return to Shinnecock Hills since the 2004 debacle. Instead, the tournament got a black eye again this year with poor greens and the most unfair setup of a golf course that I have ever seen. Can the USGA get it right before the US Open returns to Shinnecock in 2028? I hope so.  For an organization that is supposed to have the greatest Agronomic Department, that advises golf course superintendents throughout the country, it amazes me how they continue to screw up golf courses during tournament week. Maybe it is time for this amateur association to stick to running amateur golf events.

Be sure to tune in to the Bunker to Bunker Golf Show every Saturday morning from 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. on 98.7 fm Arizona Sports Station or on the internet at www.arizonasports.com; click on Sports, click on listen now for more tips and updates on all of the week’s golfing news in the Valley and around the world. Tune in to hear Greg and co-hosts Jim Hill and/or Marty Monaghan for a comprehensive look at the golf world for the week.