Six Takeaways from the 2018 US Open – including new tournament records, the social media storm caused by Phil Mickelson, and the USGA’s latest Shinnecock mistake
Brooks Koepka was crowned US Open champion after a convincing performance on Sunday that gave him a one shot victory over Tommy Fleetwood, but that isn’t quite the whole story of the 2018 US Open.
Here’s what else happened at Shinnecock Hills during the 118th edition of the US Open.
Plenty of records were made at Shinnecock Hills
Brooks Koepka became the seventh player in history to claim back-to-back US Open titles, and the first since Curtis Strange in 1989 – but it wasn’t the only record this week.
Starting with the first day of the tournament, Shinnecock Hills provided the highest opening round scoring average in a US Open since 1986 – and they were both played at Shinnecock. This year four players were under par after round 1 on the par-70 course with an average score of 76.48, whereas in 1986 it was 77.88.
In round 1, Rory McIlroy equalled the highest score of his career (80), while playing partner Jordan Spieth shot his highest ever score in a major (78).
After round 3, both Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka held a share of the lead with Tony Finau and Daniel Berger, which was the first time in the history of a US Open that the two previous champions had shared the 54-hole lead.
On Sunday, Tommy Fleetwood recorded the second ever 63 on a final day at a US Open – 45 years to the day since Jonny Miller did it at Oakmont. He has also become the 1st European player to finish 4th or better in consecutive U.S. Opens since Jim Barnes in 1915 & 1916.
With Brooks’ repeat victory, it means that all four major trophies still belong to four Americans – who all aged under 30 years old.
Tommy Fleetwood is ready to win a major
The 27-year-old Englishman spent his first father’s day tying the US-Open final round scoring record of 63 to set the clubhouse target and finish as runner up in the second major of the year. Fleetwood became just the fifth player in the tournament’s 118-year history to shoot that number, and second in the final round. And it had a chance to be so much better.
His birdie chances on his last three holes drifted past the hole, and none were closer than his last-gasp chance to shoot a US-Open record 62 on 18– which would have joined Branden Grace’s 62 from The Open at Royal Birkdale last year as the second in the history of major championships. This time however, it wasn’t meant to be.
But Tommy Fleetwood has already proved he can perform, having won the European Tour’s Race to Dubai last year and finished inside the top five at the US Open for the second year in a row. And while he might have come up a shot shy of Brooks Koepka, it feels certain that Fleetwood is ready to win a major tournament. Soon.
“And at the end of the day, this is my best result in a Major yet,” Tommy said. “So now there’s only one I can do from here, and that’s win one. At the position I’m in, performing in them a little bit more, yeah, at some point I’ll start to look and think, yeah, I can win these Majors, and I’ll start to find a way to try to win them.”
The next major stop is at Carnoustie for The Open in July. And guess who shot the course record (another 63) there last year?… This guy.
The USGA had another questionable performance at Shinnecock Hills.
As Dustin Johnson gave up a four-shot lead on his way to a seven-over 77 during round three, the USGA were hammered with criticism over the course set-up that undeniably favoured the morning starters.
Mike Davis had said prior to the tournament there would not be a repeat of the 2004 US Open at Shinnecock, where greenstaff were having to water the 7th green in between groups after players. But it came dangerously close.
The USGA were then forced to apologise after a number of players said the tournament organisers had ‘lost the golf course’, branding it ‘unplayable’, ‘unneccessary’, ‘not a fair test of golf’ and ‘over the line.’
“No doubt, we would admit there were aspects of this setup that went too far,” Davis admitted in a press conference afterwards.
“We felt really good about where the golf course was. We missed it with the wind. It blew harder than we thought it was going to blow.”
“We want the U.S. Open to be tough, we want it to be a complete test.. It was a tale of two golf courses.”
They might have got the tournament conditions right on Sunday, but the incident gives the USGA yet another mark against an already slightly tarnished reputation – not quite managing to get the balance right between creating a tough test that also rewards good golf shots.
For full story and player reaction, click here
Phil Mickelson launched a debate over a weird rules infringement
In what was one of the weirdest and unbelievable moments I’ve ever witnessed, Phil Mickelson intentionally decided to run after and hit his moving ball on the green to stop it from rolling back off the putting surface.
He was assessed a two-shot penalty for taking a stroke at a moving ball (rule 14-5) rather than acting ‘with the intent to influence the movement of a ball in play’ (rule 1-2). It resulted in plenty of speculation as to whether the USGA should invoke their right (rule 33-7) to disqualify him for a serious breach of etiquette, even more so when in post-round interviews he said he did it intentionally.
“It’s meant to take advantage of the rules as best you can,” Phil said afterwards, “and in that situation I was just going back and forth and I’d gladly take the two shots over continuing that display”
The incident predictably caused a lot of chat between players, pundits and fans – and it transpires that after Phil heard the amount of people asking if he should be disqualified, he got in touch with USGA CEO Mike Davis to offer that very thing.
“When he heard that he called Mike Davis and said ‘If I’ve done something that crosses the line that much, then I need to withdraw immediately,’ ” Phil’s wife Amy told media as he declined to speak any further on Sunday, saying that Davis assured him he was within the rules.
“You know it’s not his finest moment,” said Amy, “but hopefully he’ll learn from it. Like anybody, good people make mistakes. We all have a moment in life sometimes and that was kind of a moment I think for him.”
It might have been a moment of madness, but admitting his intention certainly didn’t do Phil any favours and has brought up a lot of questions about what it means to commit a serious breach of etiquette on the golf course. Personally, I don’t think he should have been played the final round on Sunday, whether DQ’d or voluntarily withdrawn- but there’s plenty who also disagree with me.
Bizarrely though, it wasn’t the first time this has happened in a US Open. John Daly did the same thing in 1999, and was also given a two-shot penalty, so the precedent had already been set.
For the full story, reaction and explanation – click here
Major Champions are winning without equipment deals
The first two major champions of the year have claimed their victories without an equipment deal, opting to play with a bag full of a mixture of branded golf clubs instead.
Back in April when Patrick Reed lifted his first major title it was with a Ping Driver, Nike Fairway Wood, Titleist and Callaway irons and Artisan wedges.
At the time, Reed had said: “I’m able to put 14 golf clubs and a golf ball in the bag that I feel are the perfect fit for me. To do that and come out with my first major, it was a risk. But it was a risk that was the right one.”
And just a couple of months later, Brooks Koepka claimed the second major of the year with a similarly diverse set up for the second year in a row.
Using a TaylorMade Driver and woods, a Nike driving iron, Mizuno irons, and Titleist wedges, Koepka triumphed in just his fifth tournament since returning from a wrist injury which sidelined him from competition for the first part of the year.
For the tournament, he hit 119 putts (rank 7th), 68% of greens in regulation (4th), 64% of fairways hit (55th) and an average driving distance of 318.30 (2nd).
Read now: WITB: Brooks Koepka
Tiger still positive he can win a major despite MC
It was a week to forget for Tiger Woods, who was teeing up in his first US Open since 2015 – and despite a lot of expectation born from recent results, it wasn’t a great outing for the 14-time major champion. He did all the damage in Thursday’s brutal conditions with a poor display on the greens that left him with a 78. He followed it up with a two-over 72, missing his third ever US Open cut by two shots.
“I’m not very happy with the way I played or putted,” said Woods after Friday’s round. “I’m 10 over par. You can’t be too happy or excited about 10 over par.”
“You don’t win major championships slapping it around . . . You just can’t fake it in a major championship. I gave myself enough looks. I haven’t made anything the last two days”
But even though he was disappointed in his performance at Shinnecock, when asked if he thinks he can win another major, he remained confident.
“Absolutely,” Woods said. “Have you seen the way I’ve been swinging?”