Brooks Koepka was just one place away from achieving what was thought virtually impossible, as Gary Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open golf championship at Pebble Beach – finishing on -13, three clear of the field.
Woodland’s victory is his first major title, after being a US PGA Tour pro since 2009. In that time he has just four wins to his name – and has been known as one of the longest hitters on the tour for some time now – but also been known to be leading the way after two, three rounds, only to fall away on day 4. Since he won the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2013, his only other success before this triumph at Pebble Beach was at the Phoenix Open in February 2018, where he needed a playoff to defeat Chez Reavie.
But Woodland showed all the necessary nerves and game to hold off the charge of Brooks Koepka, who came so close to recording his third successive U.S. Open title. Of the three majors this season, Koepka has now finished second in two – and won the other.
Pebble Beach, a beautiful but fearsome course, was at its most benign in a long time, and there were scores to be made out there, with very receptive greens and generous hole placements across the four rounds – the Tour executive fearful of more criticism about the difficulties of the greens in the past, and Pebble Beach notorious for playing hard.
Woodland took control of the tournament from Round 2. He had shot a steady 68 in Round 1, ending up three shots off the lead held by Justin Rose – who he would end up playing the last 36 holes with. In Round 2 though, Woodland took the tournament lead on the back of a superb 65 – which included a 50 foot birdie putt on the 9th hole. Woodland’s 36 hole total of 133 was the joint lowest for Pebble Beach in the U.S. Open.
By the end of Round 3, Woodland had got to -11, with Rose, his R3 playing partner just a shot back on -10. Koepka had now moved into third place, but 4 shots adrift of Woodland on -7, along with Louis Oosthuizen and Chez Reavie, with Rory McIlroy just a further shot behind. Going into the final day, it looked like the 2019 U.S. Open was between these golfers, with the rest considered a bit too far behind to be able to claim victory.
Koepka (above) though piled on the pressure early on Sunday – birdieing 4 of the first 5 holes. But he crucially dropped a shot on the 7th – and Woodland was able to maintain his lead with birdies of his own at #2 and #3 – at the turn he was 2 shots clear of Koepka and Rose, who had been unable to make any inroads of his own.
With Koepka unable to improve on his -10, and Rose falling away on the back nine, only an absolute disaster stood between Woodland and glory as he faced the mighty 18th hole. But he showed nerves of steel, flashing three irons to 30 foot of the pin…and then nailing the putt for birdie to claim his first major win. His winning cash of $2,250,000 not too shabby in itself…but hoisting the U.S Open trophy aloft meaning so much more for the powerful American.
2019 U.S. OPEN – FINAL LEADERBOARD
- Gary Woodland 68-65-69-69 : -13
- Brooks Koepka 69-69-68-68 : -10
- Justin Rose 65-70-68-74 : -7
- Chez Reavie 68-70-68-71 : -7
- Jon Rahm 69-70-70-68 : -7
- Xander Schauffele 66-73-71-67 : -7
- Louis Oosthuizen 66-70-70-72 : -6
- Adam Scott 70-69-71-68 : -6
- Rory McIlroy 68-69-70-72 : -5
- Chesson Hadley 68-70-70-71 : -5
- Henrik Stenson 68-71-70-70 : -5