Entering Sunday’s play at the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills, eight players with no major championship wins on their resume teed off with just four shots separating them. At the end of the day, Brooks Koekpa was four clear of all of them. As the wind howled and combatants bogeyed their way around the course, Koepka kept bombing it down the middle and scrambling whenever he needed to on his way to a 6-under 66.
His closest competitors couldn’t keep up. Patrick Reed and Justin Thomas struggled to over-par rounds for the day while 54-hole leader Brian Harman, Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood all posted ho-hum rounds of even par. It wasn’t boring, but by the 14th hole, the writing was on the wall and I was making dinner.
What promised to be one of the most exciting major championship finishes in years turned into — well, not quite a blood bath, but like, a blood shower? Or a blood-rinse? I don’t know — something like that.
Now, those left in Koepka’s wake look towards Royal Birkdale and the Open Championship in four weeks at Royal Birkdale while the champ deserves his much-deserved victory.
And while only one man could hoist the trophy, the other 155 participants in the U.S. Open found themselves having weeks that ranged from “moral victories” to ones that might require some time on shrink’s couch. Here’s a look at who excelled at Erin Hills — and those looking for a mulligan:
Brooks Koepka — It’s hard to argue with Brooks Koepka being our No. 1 ace this week after what he did to win the U.S. Open on Sunday. Entering the day, Koekpa was one shot back of the lead at 11-under par, but by the end of play Sunday he was four clear of the field and holding the trophy. The difference? When Rickie Fowler, Brian Harman, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood and Patrick Reed all fired rounds of even par or worse, Koepka overpowered Erin Hills en route to a majestic 66. Three straight birdies on 14-15-16 made the difference late, securing his first major win and his second win on Tour.
Brian Harman — Don’t look now, but Brian Harman is having one heck of a year on the PGA Tour. Coming into the U.S. Open with a win in his back pocket and riding a wave of consistent play, Harman, who entered play as a 200/1 dog, didn’t do anything flashy Thursday-Saturday, but found himself one clear of the field and in the final pairing on Sunday. Harman played OK in blustery conditions, but his level-par 72 was no match for Koepka’s Sunday 66 and he had to settle for a T-2 finish. For fantasy players wise enough to give Harman the start, however, it was as good as a win.
Charely Hoffman — Whether he’s here because I didn’t have the heart to write any more about Rickie Fowler’s near miss at Erin Hills or because I damn-straight love Charely Hoffman, I don’t know — but he deserves it. After collecting his best career finish in a major, it’s hard for me not to give some love to Hoffman. Besides, the fact that he finished in the top-10 after entering the week at 150/1 odds means he did something right. While he wasn’t able to muscle his way around like Brooks Koekpa was, he did finish at 1-under for the day and 9-under for the week.
Justin Thomas — Justin Thomas was the talk of the golf world entering play on Sunday after his historic 9-under 63 on Saturday vaulted him within a shot of the lead at the U.S. Open. Unfortunately for JT, the howling win and, perhaps, pressure of trying to claim major championship No. 1 got to him and he stumbled to a final round 75 and a T-7 showing. Not bad, but not enough for fantasy players who lost points with him on Sunday.
Steve Stricker — In what was likely his last best chance to add a major title to his resume, Steve Stricker came up just short of his ultimate goal. Coming into the week, Stricker was one of the big stories. Returning to his home state of Wisconsin with one more shot at U.S. Open glory, many expected him to seriously contend. Instead, Stricker stumbled about a bit on Thursday and Friday, making the cut on the number at 1-over. Over the weekend, he turned it on, however, firing consecutive rounds of 69 to move to 5-under for the week — good enough for a T-16 showing.
Paul Casey — It’s still surprising when you find out Paul Casey hasn’t won on the PGA Tour yet. After his performance last week at Erin Hills, he showed flashes of brilliance early, opening with a 6-under 66 and a 1-under 71 on Thursday and Friday. Over the weekend, however, Casey slowly but surely gave most of those shots back to the golf course. His 75-74 finish dropped him from the first page of the leader board to and eventual solo 26th place finish.
Jordan Spieth — After bursting onto the scene in 2015 with wins at the Masters and the U.S. Open and near-misses at the Open and PGA, Jordan Spieth had all the expectations in the world levied upon him. Since walking off 18 at Chambers Bay, Spieth has yet to reclaim major glory and has looked human much of the time. Which is fine, because he is. Unlike the next three names on this list, Spieth was around for the weekend — but rounds of 76-69 weren’t enough to make any noise.
Dustin Johnson — The 2016 U.S. Open champion came up woefully short in his title defense efforts at Erin Hills. Dustin Johnson opened with a round of 75 on Thursday and followed it up with a Friday 73, missing the cut by a couple shots. Obviously, there’s no reason to expect DJ to begin some type of uncontrollable skid, but to have the world No. 1 get bounced before the weekend made things tough for most fantasy players.
Rory McIlroy — I’m not sure I’ve ever had to eat a bigger dish of crow in my life, but thanks to Rory McIlroy’s dismal performance at Erin Hills, I’ll be gorging myself on it for the quite some time. Obviously, there were warning signs for McIlroy, but I ignored them. Shame on me. While I disagree with Steve Elkington about Rors being bored, but there was certainly something amiss in McIlroy’s game.
Jason Day — It’s been a bit of a rough year for Jason Day with the off course issues for his mother and his normally automatic game has seemed to be a little more manual. At Erin Hills, Day opened with a 7-over 79 on Thursday and chased that with a mediocre 75. Day will obviously bounce back, but it was easily his worst showing in a major.