No sting in second for Brooks Koepka as U.S. Open three-peat bid falls short

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

No sting in second for Brooks Koepka as U.S. Open three-peat bid falls short

USGA

No sting in second for Brooks Koepka as U.S. Open three-peat bid falls short

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Brooks Koepka had a front row seat to watch the end of his two-year reign as U.S. Open champion.

He came excruciatingly close to the three-peat at Pebble Beach but settled for solo second, 10 under for the week and three shots behind first-time major winner Gary Woodland. After a sizzling start to get within one of the lead, Koepka finished with six consecutive pars coming off a bogey at the par-3 12th.

“It doesn’t sting. I played great,” Koepka said. “Nothing I could do. I gave it my all.”

Koepka had a chance to apply some pressure down the stretch but missed a 9-foot birdie try on 18. That left the door wide open and Woodland stormed in with a dramatic closing birdie at the last.

The whole Koepka crew stuck around for the finish after Brooks closed with a 3-under 69 while trying to make up a four-shot deficit to start the day. Koepka’s dad, Bob Koepka, stood tall and clapped after Woodland sank the winning putt.

Koepka had already exchanged subdued handshakes with his supporters near the scoring area and greeted Woodland with a hug and a huge smile as he went in to sign the winning scorecard.

“He deserves it,” Koepka said. “He’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.”

A muted finish for the four-time major champion held him back from becoming the first to win three straight national championships since Willie Anderson did so more than 100 years ago. But he did make a different kind of history Sunday, becoming the first player to shoot five consecutive U.S. Open rounds in the 60s going back to the final round at Shinnecock.

He’s also the first player who didn’t win a U.S. Open after shooting in the 60s in all four rounds – Lee Trevino (1968), Lee Janzen (1993), Rory McIlroy (2011) and Woodland all hoisted the trophy after doing the same.

“It was awesome to come this close to going three in a row,” Koepka said. “It’s incredible. Anytime you can compete in a major is special, and to have a chance to go back-to-back, that was pretty cool. I didn’t really think about it until I was done on 18 and realized how close I actually was to kind of, I guess, not making history but kind of tying it, I guess you could say. But it’s a cool feeling. Just wasn’t meant to be this week.”

So many players have come and gone without ever knowing what it feels like when it’s your week at a major championship. Koepka has done it four times in his last nine attempts, and if anything another runner-up just solidifies how crazy good he’s playing at the biggest events. He’s finished first or second in four consecutive majors now dating back to the 2018 PGA Championship and shows no signs of slowing down.

If anything, he should continue to get stronger as the experience and confidence piles up. Woodland’s incredible resolve down the stretch Sunday just proves how much it takes to win one major title, let alone four.

“I give it my all every time and sometimes, like this week – it happened at Augusta – it’s just not meant to be,” Koepka said.

Tiger Woods and Adam Scott must have felt the same way leaving Bellerive a year ago. Same goes for Dustin Johnson last month at Bethpage. They were the ones waiting around to congratulate Koepka, pondering the reality that it just wasn’t their week.

Considering how close he came to history at Pebble Beach, chances are it’ll be Koepka’s week again before long.

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