Golf has a new brute, and his name is Brooks.
He pumps iron with world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and pounded stout Erin Hills into submission with a back-nine birdie blitz on Sunday afternoon. Brooks Koepka, a 27-year-old Floridian, was every bit the big cheese on his way to winning Wisconsin’s first U.S. Open.
A former Florida State golfer who apprenticed on the European Tour before winning his first PGA Tour title in Phoenix two years ago, Koepka arrived at the U.S. Open ranked 22nd in the world and left a major champion who now figures to be spoken of in the same breath as Dustin, Rory, Jason and Jordan.
With his 16-under-par total, Koepka equaled McIlroy’s 2011 mark for most strokes under par in a U.S. Open. And he did it on a sprawling, 7,700-yard-plus layout that scored big points in its Open debut.
The week began with players taking to social media to spotlight the deep fescue bordering Erin Hills’ fairways and the USGA in turn trimming the hay in spots. Incredulous at this turn of events, McIlroy suggested that players who can’t hit fairways wide enough to accommodate jumbo jets ought to pack their bags and go home. Which is exactly what McIlroy did after shooting 78-71 and spending inordinate time in the weeds.
Fortunately, fescuegate was the closest thing to controversy at this U.S. Open. Despite a blimp crash, an E. coli scare and the unfortunate passing of an elderly spectator, the championship went off mercifully devoid of the acrimony that plagued the past two editions. Moreover, the players’ reviews and Sunday’s drama validated the USGA’s choice of a non-traditional venue. The blue blazers no doubt are breathing a sigh of relief.