Gary Woodland holds off Koepka and Rose to win US Open

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The finest tribute payable to Gary Woodland for this, his maiden major triumph, lies in the identity of the individual he held off.

As Brooks Koepka stalked to within one stroke of Woodland, through various stages of this US Open’s closing round, the outcome appeared a formality. Koepka, such a specialist in this major championship domain, was on the verge of history in seeking to become only the second man to win three US Opens in succession.

Not only did Woodland refuse to wilt; he took this title by three shots. It was impressive to see Koepka, denied his fifth major win in nine starts, amongst those waiting by the 72nd green to offer congratulations to the new champion. This was fully justified; the level of calmness as displayed by Woodland under intense pressure was quite terrific.

Every major winner has moments. Woodland had three. He diced with danger when aiming for the par five 14th green from 263 yards. Woodland’s three-wood approach seemed destined for trouble but instead bounced favourably from the top of a bunker protecting the front of the green. A crucial birdie followed. At the 17th, Woodland played a quite superb chip over a ridge to 2ft. On the last, the 35-year-old converted a birdie putt from 30ft. Short game, for so long a Woodland weakness, proved a Pebble Beach strength.

Woodland’s 69 meant a 13 under par aggregate; he thereby becomes the eighth first time major winner in the last 11 US Opens. Given personal heartache of his recent past, Woodland was understandably emotional before signing his card. “I never really thought the tournament was over so the emotion all came out when that final putt fell in,” Woodland said. “It’s so special to do it here at Pebble Beach. I played to win.” He didn’t half.

Before a final-round ball was struck, Koepka may well have taken a 68 for 10 under par. When four-under through his first five holes, the Floridian looked poised for the first straight US Open three-timer since Willie Anderson in 1905. Instead, Koepka covered his next 13 in plus one.

“I played great, nothing I could do,” Koepka said. “Gary played a great four days. That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win a US Open and hats off to him. He deserves it, he’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.”

Gary Woodland reacts as he sinks a birdie putt on the final hole.
 Gary Woodland reacts as he sinks a birdie putt on the final hole. Photograph: Erik S Lesser/EPA

There was a theory Justin Rose’s level of scrambling, as kept him prominent after 54 holes, couldn’t continue. And so it proved; the Englishman’s 74 slid him back to seven under and a tie for third with Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm and Chez Reavie.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Rose insisted. “You reflect and think ‘How can I get better?’ There’s no point in letting it hurt too much. It hurts if you lose at the death and you make a mistake. Like the way it happened for me today, I’m more proud of the fact I even gave myself a chance.”

Rory McIlroy’s tilt at glory looked destined for failure by the time he reached the 3rd tee. The Northern Irishman double bogeyed the 2nd, a scenario which left him with far too much to do in his quest to win a second US Open. McIlroy’s 72 meant a tied ninth finish and tale of what might have been.

Adam Scott was amongst those to briefly play their way into contention. The Australian reached nine under par before carving his tee shot into the front garden of a Pebble Beach mansion from the 13th tee. Less relevant, but just as striking, was Scott’s 3ft putt for par on 16 that came to rest 7ft beyond the hole. Perhaps this was a lesson from the fashion gods towards Scott for the wearing of brown trousers that resembled the outfit of a landscape gardener. Scott dug his way to seventh, where he had Louis Oosthuizen for finishing company.

Viktor Hovland created history with the lowest US Open 72 hole aggregate by an amateur. The 21-year-old from Oslo signed off with a 67 for a total of 280, or four under par. Big things, quite understandably, will be expected of Hovland when he imminently turns professional. “I hope that I can feed off of this and be in contention for winning tournaments,” Hovland said after completing quite the double; he has won low amateur honours at the Masters and US Open within little over two months.

Tiger Woods waited until Sunday to deliver his best round of the week, a 69, with his total of two under meaning a tie for 21st. “I’m going to take a little bit of time off and enjoy some family time,” said Woods, whose next competitive stop is expected to be the Open Championship. Woodland will do likewise; with a trophy for added company.

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