Gary Woodland holds off Brooks Koepka for stunning US Open triumph at Pebble Beach

Gary Woodland holds off Brooks Koepka for stunning US Open triumph at Pebble Beach

Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland is the winner of the 119th US Open (Image: GETTY)

Having carded a 68, a 65 and a 69 across the first three rounds, the American kept his cool to claim his first ever major success with a final-round 69.

Despite two bogeys – as many as he managed in the three previous rounds combined – in the first 12 holes, Woodland saw it out after top-10 finishes in both of the last two PGA Championships, having been the halfway leader at the PGA in 2018. 

Woodland had held the 54-hole lead at seven tournaments previously but showed no sign of a repeat here with a nerveless display.

His lead was cut to one after bogeying the 12th, but Woodland kept two-time defending champion Brooks Koepka at arm’s length and finished his round in stunning style to claim his national title.

Woodland’s previous best came when he ended tied for sixth at Bellerive last year, when he ended six shots behind eventual winner Koepka.

And it was world number one Koepka – bidding for his third straight US Open and his fifth career major – who put the pressure on Woodland on Sunday after several former championship victors, including Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen, had entered the final day in close pursuit of the leader.

Starting the day four shots off of Woodland after missing a series of chances for birdies on day three, Koepka was three-under par off the first nine.

He continued that form to end on 69 and ensure he finished the weekend with four rounds in the sixties, becoming the first player to card below 70 in all four rounds and not lift the 18-inch silver jug come Sunday evening.

Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland signed off in style with a long birdie putt (Image: GETTY)

Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland was 70/1 with many bookies before the US Open (Image: GETTY)

Brooks Koepka

Brooks Koepka put in a valiant effort but couldn’t claim a third successive US Open title (Image: GETTY)

I am trying to enjoy being uncomfortable. I tried to enjoy the pressure, and really thrived on it.

Gary Woodland

Kansas-born Woodland – who had only won three PGA Tour titles since turning professional 12 years ago before this – wavered Koepka’s pressure throughout, producing a particularly stunning chip on the 17th hole to put himself within three feet while his rival wasted a chance for a birdie on the final hole.

Woodland then went to the 18th himself and putted from 25 feet to end on a birdie and finish three shots clear of Koepka.

It was an unforgettable weekend for the 35-year-old, who equalled the best-ever round at Pebble Beach with his 65 on Friday, which was managed by Tiger Woods in 2005 and also by Justin Rose on Thursday.

Asked how it sounded to be US Open champion at the trophy ceremony, Woodland said: “It sounds really, really good. I like that.

“The drive on 14 was huge. I slipped a little bit, realised my footwork was off, so I refocused. I hit a great second shot there. We played to win, I could have laid up. But we decided to hit three-wood, and my caddie gave me a lot of confidence there. 

“That birdie kind of separated me a bit. I had the chip on 17 earlier this week, it’s the second time I’ve got it up and down. But I was just trying to get it over the hump, and take four if I had to. I was just trying to eliminate the big number. It came off perfectly.”

Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland enjoyed a phenomenal week at Pebble Beach (Image: GETTY)

Gary Woodland

Gary Woodland had never previously won a major (Image: GETTY)

And when quizzed as to whether he ever let himself dream this big, he added: “No, I didn’t. It was special. I never let myself get ahead, I never really thought the tournament was over. Once that went in [on the 18th], it all came out of me. It was special to finish it off here at Pebble Beach.” 

Woodland had never even cracked the top 10 in eight previous showings at the US Open and speaking with a beaming smile, added to Sky Sports: “I don’t even know what to say. I’m probably a little more nervous now than I was all day today! I really felt good all week, I was really in control of the golf ball. 

“We’ve put a lot of work in with [swing coach] Pete Cowen and we’ve been preparing for this. We worked hard and it’s nice to see it finally pay off. I’ve hit the golf ball pretty good for a long time but the short game is taking pressure off the ball-striking, which has gotten better. Putting is taking pressure off everything. When I can do that, it adds up to a pretty good week.

“I was trying to enjoy the moment. It’s obviously uncomfortable to be in the lead at a major, but I am trying to enjoy being uncomfortable. I tried to enjoy the pressure, and really thrived on it. 

“Rosey’s a good buddy, so playing with him helped me. And Koepka, what he’s done lately is unbelievable. He got off to a hot start, and I was just trying to keep that cushion.”

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods ended tied for 21st (Image: GETTY)

Justin Rose

Justin Rose dropped away on the fourth and final day (Image: GETTY)

Englishman Rose went into the day just one shot behind leader Woodland but was three-over on the final day to finish tied for third alongside Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie.

Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy ended two shots further back after a fourth-round one-over, while Woods could only finish tied for 21st, as many as 11 shots back on winner Woodland.

And the American icon, a 15-time major winner, suggested he will take time off between now and the British Open at Northern Ireland’s Royal Portrush on July 18.

Asked if he will play again before then, Woods joked: “Depends if you’ve got a camera phone! No, I think I’m going to take a little bit of time off and enjoy some family time. I’ll play at home.

“I’ve never been up to Portrush. I’m looking forward to getting up there and taking a look at the golf course and trying to figure out. I hope that my practice rounds are such that we get different winds, especially on a golf course that I’ve never played, and to get a different feel how it could play for the week. Definitely have to do my homework once I get there.”

Elsewhere Viktor Hovland returned to the clubhouse with the lowest 72-hole score ever recorded by an amateur at the US Open, the Norwegian ended at four-under off 280 strokes across the week to break Jack Nicklaus’ record before turning professional this week.

Published at Mon, 17 Jun 2019 02:19:00 +0000