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Brooks Koepka says Dustin Johnson pep talk helped him to US Open win

American seals first major after call from defending champion

Image Credit: AP
Brooks Koepka of the United States holds up the winning trophy after the US Open tournament on Sunday at the Erin Hills in Erin.
Gulf News

Erin Hills, Wisconsin: Brooks Koepka revealed he received a motivational phone call from the world No. 1, Dustin Johnson, the night before he became a first-time major winner. Koepka’s four-stroke triumph at Erin Hills on Sunday, at a record-equalling tournament aggregate of 16 under par, means he succeeds Johnson as the US Open champion.

“Dustin actually called me on Saturday night and told me to take one shot at a time, just to stay patient,” Koepka said. “It was a case of ‘just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to win the thing. Just don’t get ahead of yourself’.

“It was a long phone call for us; it was like two minutes. But he just said a few things, about just staying patient. And that I’ll win if I stay patient and just keep doing what I’m doing.

“Because we played a Tuesday practice round together, he watched me play. I thought I played pretty solid on Tuesday. He said he was pulling for me and just hang in there. That it would happen. I felt like that has been the thing lately with me, why I haven’t really played that well — I’ve been trying to win so badly. I felt like I underachieved. And the more patient that I can become, the more times I’ll put myself in this situation.”

Koepka’s victory at Erin Hills impressed golf’s aristocracy. The 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus was among those who praised the Floridian.

“The golf course suited his game very well,” said Nicklaus. “Brooks drives it so long. But he also hit 88 per cent of fairways and 86 per cent of greens. That’s pretty sensational in a US Open. Brooks controlled the ball fantastically, his game was just so good.

“Yes, Brooks drove it beautifully, but he made the putts in the final round when he had to make them. This was just such a solid performance to win a championship that will change his life.”

The champion himself set his sights immediately towards further success on golf’s biggest stages. “We started out this year and I thought I needed to win multiple times and a major,” he explained.

“I’m sure someone even heard me say that. I thought the way my game set up, I can win multiple times a year, I really do. This is, hopefully, major number one and there’s many more to come.”

The 27-year-old Koepka gained confidence from his maiden Ryder Cup appearance, last year at Hazeltine as the USA regained the trophy.

“I think the Ryder Cup was kind of the first real taste of true pressure I think I’ve ever felt,” he added. “I don’t get too nervous. I don’t really think too far ahead, usually.

“And to be honest with you, this week I don’t think I ever got nervous, not at one point. I just stayed in the moment. I thought that if I thought ahead, if I strayed from the gameplan at all, that’s where things were going to go wayward and sideways. You start thinking ahead. You start thinking about having the trophy or start thinking about other things. You’re here to play golf. You’ve got 18 holes, just gut it out for that long and then you can celebrate.”

As Koepka celebrated, England’s Tommy Fleetwood quite rightly drew upon positives from his own US Open. The 26-year-old from Southport, who was only playing in the event for the second time, continued a steep and upward career trajectory with a fourth-placed finish.

“I’d never contended for a major before so when you get to Saturday and Sunday, you’ve got to see how you react and how you feel,” Fleetwood said. “I felt on Saturday I played great. On Sunday, my game wasn’t quite there, but I still got it round in level par. I scrapped a little bit for it but I felt fine. I felt comfortable. I enjoyed playing late on Saturday and Sunday.

“I know that inside myself I feel fine and I can get into contention in these events again. Whether I play well or not in that situation next time, that’s a different story but I feel fine.”



Factbox for Brooks Koepka:

Born: May 3, 1990 in West Palm Beach, Florida

Turned pro in 2012: Immediately joined secondary European Challenge Tour, before earning promotion to the main European Tour during the 2013 season. Gained his PGA Tour card during 2014 season

Professional victories: 8 2012: Challenge de Catalunya (Euro Challenge Tour) 2013: Montecchia Golf Open (Challenge Tour), Fred Olesen Challenge de Espana (Challenge Tour), Scottish Hyndro Challenge (Challenge Tour) 2014: Turkish Airlines Open (European Tour) 2015: Waste Management Phoenix Open (PGA Tour) 2016: Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Tour) 2017: US Open

World ranking: 10th after US Open

National teams: Ryder Cup in 2016: 3-1-0 (record)

Fun fact: Manchester United fan. Calls soccer “proper” football

Final round scores (Par 72; a-denotes amateur):

272 - Brooks Koepka (USA) 67-70-68-67

276 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN) 74-65-71-66, Brian Harman (USA) 67-70-67-72

277 - Tommy Fleetwood (ENG) 67-70-68-67

278 - Xander Schauffele (USA) 66-73-70-69, Bill Haas (USA) 72-68-69-69, Rickie Fowler (USA) 65-73-68-72

279 - Charley Hoffman (USA) 70-70-68-71

280 - Trey Mullinax (USA) 71-72-69-68, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 70-69-70-71, Justin Thomas (USA) 73-69-63-75

281 - J.B. Holmes (USA) 69-69-72-71

282 - Brendan Steele (USA) 71-69-69-73, Patrick Reed (USA) 68-75-65-74, Kim Si-Woo (KOR) 69-70-68-75

283 - Matt Kuchar (USA) 74-71-70-68, Steve Stricker (USA) 73-72-69-69, Chez Reavie (USA) 75-65-72-71, Eddie Pepperell (ENG) 72-71-69-71, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 69-72-69-73

284 - David Lingmerth (SWE) 73-69-71-71, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 70-71-71-72

285 - Kevin Chappell (USA) 74-70-70-71, Jim Furyk (USA) 70-74-69-72, Louis Oosthuizen (RSA) 74-70-68-73

286 - Paul Casey (ENG) 66-71-75-74

287 - Scottie Scheffler-a (USA) 69-74-71-73, Zach Johnson (USA) 71-74-68-74, Jamie Lovemark (USA) 69-69-74-75, Marc Leishman (AUS) 68-72-72-75, Russell Henley (USA) 71-70-67-79

288 - Kevin Na (USA) 68-76-73-71, Martin Laird (SCO) 72-71-72-73, Cameron Champ-a (USA) 70-69-73-76

289 - Jordan Spieth (USA) 73-71-76-69, Jordan Niebrugge (USA) 73-72-73-71, Martin Kaymer (GER) 72-69-75-73, Brandon Stone (RSA) 70-74-72-73, Webb Simpson (USA) 74-71-71-73, Michael Putnam (USA) 73-70-71-75, Matt Fitzpatrick (ENG) 70-73-70-76

290 - Rafa Cabrera Bello (ESP) 72-73-71-74, Andrew Johnston (ENG) 69-73-73-75, Jack Maguire (USA) 70-73-71-76, Jonathan Randolph (USA) 71-71-73-75

291 - Stewart Cink (USA) 74-70-76-71, Shane Lowry (IRL) 71-74-73-73, Harris English (USA) 71-69-75-76

292 - Gary Woodland (USA) 72-73-73-74, Kim Meen-Whee (KOR) 73-70-72-77, Branden Grace (RSA) 72-72-71-77

294 - Jason Kokrak (USA) 75-70-74-75, Ryan Brehm (USA) 71-74-72-77, Satoshi Kodaira (JPN) 73-69-73-76

295 - Ernie Els (RSA) 70-72-79-74, William McGirt (USA) 70-71-79-75, Lee Westwood (ENG) 69-75-75-76

296 - Kevin Kisner (USA) 74-70-76-76, Thomas Aiken (RSA) 71-71-75-79

297 - Keegan Bradley (USA) 72-73-75-77, Yusaku Miyazato (JPN) 72-70-76-79, Stephan Jaeger (GER) 71-73-74-79, Adam Hadwin (CAN) 68-74-75-80

298 - Kevin Dougherty (USA) 71-72-80-75

300 - Daniel Summerhays (USA) 73-72-74-81

301 - Talor Gooch (USA) 74-71-76-80

303 - Tyler Light (USA) 73-72-78-80

310 - Li Haotong (CHN) 74-70-82-84