Gary Woodland wins US Open in sensational style by fending off reigning champion Brooks Koepka

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Nothing in Gary Woodland’s record suggested he would hold on to win the US Open at Pebble Beach. He had just two top tens in majors to his name in 30 attempts. On seven previous occasions when he’d held a 54 hole lead, he’d lost it every time.

He was up against Brooks Koepka and Justin Rose, who’d won three of the last six editions between them. Woodland, however, played like the favourite rather than the underdog. 

While Koepka mixed brilliance with a couple of silly errors, and poor Rose struggled yet again with his iron play, the 35 year old from Kansas kept his composure admirably to win his first major with an accomplished display filled with craft and resolve.

Gary Woodland held his nerve on the final day at Pebble Beach to win the 2019 US Open and his first major championship

Gary Woodland held his nerve on the final day at Pebble Beach to win the 2019 US Open and his first major championship

Woodland punched the air in celebration after pulling off a sublime birdie putt on the 18th and winning the silverware

Woodland punched the air in celebration after pulling off a sublime birdie putt on the 18th and winning the silverware

Woodland tips his hat to the masses, who rose as one to applaud his spectacular achievements on the final day

Woodland tips his hat to the masses, who rose as one to applaud his spectacular achievements on the final day

Right up to the end it was in doubt. With Koepka standing over a birdie putt at the 18th, and Woodland in trouble at the previous hole, there was the potential for a two stroke swing that would have brought them level. But Koepka missed and Woodland played a stunning chip to snatch the par that sealed his victory. Somewhere his short game coach, Yorkshireman Pete Cowen, must have broken into a broad smile.

Woodland finished in style, holing from 30ft on the 18th for a 69 and a three stroke success. Koepka, therefore, fell just short in his pursuit of history, and his bid to become the first man in over a century to win this title three years in a row. But what an effort from the Floridian, who shot 68. In the last four majors, he has now finished 1-2-1-2.

Five holes from home, Rose’s race was finally run, as he fell four shots behind Woodland. If truth be told, it was an amazing effort to keep going for so long.

From day one his ball striking, usually the strength of his game, was poor. Time and again he kept the mistakes at bay, compiling one-putt statistics that were simply off the charts. It defied all known lore at the US Open, which is supposed to be about hitting fairways and greens, that he went into the last eight holes just one behind. But it couldn’t last, and bogeys at the 12th and 13th, followed by a Woodland birdie at the 14th, ended his gutsy effort.

Rose and Woodland pictured locking horns on the seventh hole of the Pebble Beach course on Sunday

Rose and Woodland pictured locking horns on the seventh hole of the Pebble Beach course on Sunday 

It was an inconsistent start by Rose, despite opening with a birdie and Woodland stretched his lead to two shots

It was an inconsistent start by Rose, despite opening with a birdie and Woodland stretched his lead to two shots

England's Rose went out in the final group of the fourth round in pursuit of the second major title of his career

England’s Rose went out in the final group of the fourth round in pursuit of the second major title of his career

Rose reacts in dismay after seeing a putt for birdie on the fifth stop narrowly short of the hole at Pebble Beach

Rose reacts in dismay after seeing a putt for birdie on the fifth stop narrowly short of the hole at Pebble Beach 

Koepka and Rory McIlroy began the final round in the rear-view mirror of Woodland and Rose. At four and five strokes behind respectively, they were close enough to command the expectation of the enormous crowd.

While one made the dramatic leap forward to begin his challenge for the title, the other shot himself in the foot. It wasn’t hard to tell the difference between the man who had won four of the last eight majors he’d entered and the one who won the last of his four almost five years ago.

The one thing they had in common was the second hole proved pivotal. Where McIlroy got punished badly for an atrocious piece of course management, Koepka enjoyed an outrageous piece of good fortune to get away with an equally bad mistake.

Both tried to muscle the ball from horrendous lies in the rough. McIlroy barely moved his ball at all, resulting in a double bogey. Koepka’s squirted left and should have finished in a hazard, but he pitched to 6ft from an inviting lie and holed for a fluky par. McIlroy’s day was effectively done almost before it had begun. Koepka had got the break he needed to have any chance of his piece of history.

Koepka played beautifully either side of his lucky break, mind, compiling an opening sequence bristling with menace. He had four birdies in his first five holes and only one followed a putt of any great length. 

In five holes he went from one shot ahead of the Northern Irishman to a mammoth seven. McIlroy’s closing card showed two doubles and three bogeys as he shot 72 for tied 9th.

Brooks Koepka made a sensational early surge to haul himself into contention as he aimed for a third US Open triumph

Brooks Koepka made a sensational early surge to haul himself into contention as he aimed for a third US Open triumph

Koepka birdied the first, third and fourth at Pebble Beach as he seized some early momentum in his final round

Koepka birdied the first, third and fourth at Pebble Beach as he seized some early momentum in his final round 

Woodland began the day with a one-shot lead but refused to be distract by the US Open trophy at the start of his round

Woodland began the day with a one-shot lead but refused to be distract by the US Open trophy at the start of his round 

History was made by the exciting Norwegian amateur, Viktor Hovland, who followed up winning the silver medal at the Masters by closing with a wonderful 67 to break the 72 hole scoring record for an amateur at the US Open.

Given the record was held by Jack Nicklaus and set in 1960, what a way for the 21 year old from Oslo to wave farewell to the non-paid ranks. He will make his pro debut at the Travelers Championship this week. Given how good he is, and how much he loves the big stages, what price him making Europe’s Ryder Cup team at Whistling Straits next year?

Hovland finished tied 11th alongside English trio Matt Fitzpatrick, who shot 68, Matt Wallace – another encouraging showing following his third place at the USPGA – and Danny Willett, with his best finish in an American major since winning the 2016 Masters.

Tiger Woods’s round of 69 was a curious thing, as he struggled over the opening holes and then recovered spectacularly over the back nine where you’re supposed to be hanging on. Four over par after six, he played the next 12 holes in six under. It was his lowest final round in this championship for a decade.

Next stop for him: the Open at Royal Portrush next month.



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