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A Repeat

After the opening round of the 118th US Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the bodies were spread across the course like a scary D movie. Jordan Spieth (78), Tiger Woods (78), Rory McIlroy (80), Phil Mickelson (77 and still looking for his first US Open title after six runner-up finishes) all carded high numbers and essentially removed themselves from contention.

The USGA loves to bring a course to the precipice of playability for its Championships and once again has found a willing accomplice at Shinnecock Hills. This is the fifth US Open to be hosted by the venerable links course in Southampton, N.Y. whose historic clubhouse is the oldest in America.

Shinnecock is known for its brutal punishment of errant shots. As is always the case when the U.S. Open is there, the fescue was long and penal and the greens were lightning quick. The last time the Open was here in 2004 (Retief Goosen was a two-shot winner over Mickelson), the greens actually died on the weekend, while officials were watering the putting surfaces in between groups playing every hole.

There were only 4 players under par after the first round and they all shared the lead at 1-under. American Scott Piercy was the last player to qualify for the field but was one of the quartet of leaders. He was joined by fellow American, Russell Henley, England’s Ian Poulter and Rolex world #1 Dustin Johnson, fresh off his 6-shot win last week in the St. Jude Classic.

And after Friday’s second round the 32-year South Carolinian would be the only player under par for the Championship after fashioning a 3-under 67 to be 4-under par and four shots ahead of Piercy and Charley Hoffman.

A shot further adrift were Poulter and fellow Englishman Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood who authored the day’s best round a 4-under 66. Defending Champion Brooks Koepka https://www.birdgolf.com/into-the-record-brooks/ and Sweden’ Henrik Stenson were also in the pack at 1-over, with Rickie Fowler and Henley rounding out the top 10 at 2-over.

Woods, McIlroy and Spieth would all miss the cut and were joined by Aussies; Jason Day and Adam Scott and Spaniards’, Jon Rahm and Sergio Garcia who would all get the weekend off.  Mickelson rebounded with a 1-fewer than 69 to just make the cut with a punchers chance to win the only Major that has eluded him.

And then in Saturday’s third round, history repeated itself. Some rain had softened the course in the morning and despite some diabolical pin positions the course was playable. Daniel Berger and Tony Finau both took advantage of the morning and recorded 4-under 66’s leaving them at 3-over for the Championship and tied for the early lead in the clubhouse.

By the early afternoon the course was nearly unplayable as the winds picked up and Shinnecock began to resemble a parking lot.

Saturday’s stroke average was a whopping 75.3.

3 players broke par; 8 shot over 80 including an 84 from Fowler and an 81 from Mickelson that included a two shot penalty for hitting a moving ball.

Johnson shot a 77 that included three 3-putts and a host of unrewarded good shots but still gave him a  share of the lead heading into Sunday at 3-over. Koepka became the fourth man tied for the overnight lead after a 2-over 72.

Rose was a shot behind at 4-over followed by Stenson at 5-over. Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Americans Patrick Reed and Jim Furyk were all at 6-over and filled out the top 10.

Fleetwood was one of the players who had seemingly lost his chance of victory with a 78 on Saturday but he became only the sixth player in history to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open in Sunday’s finale. The affable 27-year old had a chance to make history and become the first player to shoot 62 but his short birdie putt just missed on the 18th hole but his 2-over finish gave him the lead in the clubhouse.

Reed would challenge early making birdies on 5 of his first 7 holes but would falter down the stretch before settling for a 2-under, 68 and two behind Fleetwood at 4-over. Johnson acquitted himself well also shooting an even par 70 and a third place finish at 3-over but the day would belong to Koepka.

The 28-year old Floridian took command of the Championship on the front 9 and never looked back closing with a superb 2-under 68 and a one shot triumph over Fleetwood. Koepka becomes only the 7th player to win back-to-back U.S. Opens and the first to do so since Curtis Strange in 1988 and 1989. His laid back and unflappable style was undoubtedly a huge asset this week with all the controversy and adversity at Shinnecock but he was clearly superior on a weekend that demanded perfection.