ERIN, WISCONSIN – Brooks Koepka and Peter Uihlein were inseparable on their grand tour of Europe a few years ago. Two engaging young Americans who looked as though they enjoyed the experiences off the courses as much as on.
The two likely lads ate what was put in front of them, even though they didn’t always know what it was, travelled by train, plane and car. They made the most of their experiences first on the European Challenge Tour and then the main tour, each winning the prestigious Sir Henry Cotton Award for the most promising rookie of the year on the European Tour (Uihlein in 2013, Koepka in 2014).
Uihlein, a past US Amateur champion, nearly scored a 59 in a tournament in Scotland; Koepka won the Turkish Airlines Open in 2014. Uihlein had the name – his father is Wally Uihlein of Titleist fame – Koepka had the game.
Those experiences proved invaluable. Europe was their test bed and since then Uihlein, 26, has got to 153rd in the world while Koepka, 27, has roared up the rankings to 22nd and was a member of the winning US Ryder Cup team in 2016. Koepka’s form resembles the graph of a recovering patient, up, up and up. He has had three top-five finishes in the 13 major championships in which he has competed and three top-10 finishes in his past six major championships.
Now he is right up there in the US Open, tied for second with Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood, one stroke behind Brian Harman. It’s a tournament in which Koepka clearly feels at home because after missing the cut in his first, 2012, he has yet to finish worse than 18th in the last three.
“The back nine really suits the eye,” Koepka said. “I think there’s a lot of tee shots that are left to right. I just hit it hard down the left-hand side and let it come back. I love this golf course. I think it’s great.”