Now that the dust has settled on a excellent US Open, time to ponder a few winners and losers from the week
They flattered to deceive
His opening 66 saw him atop the leaderboard for most of the opening day but first round leaders rarely go on to win and his subsequent efforts of 77, 71, 72 were a huge disappointment for the man widely regarded as the best in the world (although perhaps he’s now been overtaken by Jon Rahm) without a major trophy on his sideboard.
An opening level par 70 was nice and steady but he couldn’t capitalise on it and following rounds of 72, 71 and 69 gave him mid-table respectability without any real chance of something better.
The man who’s a bit of a Pebble Beach specialist, couldn’t buy a putt all week and that will sink you quicker than a lead weight around your boots.
A pattern is emerging where he goes into the last day in contention, misses a short put or has a bad hole early doors and coasts his way in. The double bogey on the first hole Sunday set the seal on a disappointing 72. He finished tied 9th
Tommy Fleetwood, Jordan Spieth and Kyle Stanley
The trio almost finished joint last of those who got through to the weekend, tied 65th and each earned $23,851. Spieth, in particular, was heavily fancied going into the championship but weekend rounds of 73, 76 meant that he, too sleeps with the fishes.
Only he still thinks he can capture his national open championship and this was the best chance he’ll ever have; the course is short by modern standards and played soft and he was talking himself up a storm before the gun went. Flashes of brilliance are still there but consistency is not.
In his last event as an amateur, the son of Norway shot four-under par for tied 12th and drove the ball as well as anyone.
Had he shot level par on the last day, instead of 74, he would have finished alone in second place. While everyone around him achieved red numbers he got stuck in reverse. However, as he later said: ‘To contend in a major with no game, really, I take the positive from that,’ and so he should.
A great course, set up perfectly, allowed the best in the world to show us what they can do, and the quality of the leaderboard reflected it. The USGA got lucky with the weather – an absence of wind and cloud cover that prevented the greens drying out to their usual US Open rock-hard consistency, meant that well-struck shots were rewarded and isn’t that the point?
An unusual sight appeared on my TV screen during the second round – I saw Luke Donald hole a putt; unusual both because his ball found the bottom of the cup, and the television producer deigned to let us see it. A third round 77 did for him but even making the cut is an achievement these days and his appearance, however fleeting, was nonetheless welcome.
The flag of St George. Matt Wallace had another good major week and Danny Willett proved his recent resurgence is no fluke as they finished alongside each other, tied 12th at four-under par, alongside another Englishman, Matthew Fitzpatrick. Add in Justin Rose and that’s four Englishmen in the top-12 and don’t forget that Paul Casey and Tyrell Hatton ended up tied 21st at two-under. Best news of all for British fans was the form of Graeme McDowell. He never looked seriously like winning but how great to see him at the right end of a leaderboard again, especially now that he has qualified for The Open Championship next month at his beloved Royal Portrush (and yes, I know he doesn’t fly the flag of St George but allow me a little artistic licence).
In his last six major championships, the world’s best-named golfer (honourable mention to Bryson DeChambeau) finished tied 6, T2, T35, T2, T16, T3. His gritty, unflashy excellence is exactly what is needed in a major and the breakthrough win can’t be far away.
The Yorkshireman is coach to both Gary Woodland and Koepka. Nice one, Pete.
Oops, nearly forgot. Difficult to believe he has held a 54-hole lead seven times before and never gone on to win. This championship was thoroughly deserved and the right man took home the bacon after four near-perfect rounds of 68, 65, 69, 69.
No surprises there, then
One unusual feature of this year’s US Open is that none of the big names tumbled out after two days. Ian Poulter and Justin Thomas failed to make the weekend, both with a pair of 73s but neither has been in sparkling form. Usually the big weekend story, apart from who’s leading, is a litany of household names who came up disappointingly short but not this year.
Disappointment of the Week
Phil Mickelson’s mum clearly never taught him that chewing gum with your mouth open is both impolite and disgusting. Stop it, Phil.
Brooks Koepka didn’t win but came damned close and is the first man in history to shoot four rounds in the 60s at a US Open and not lift the trophy. He’s a major-winning machine so why is it difficult to love him? He’s not bland – in fact outspoken on occasion – and plays astonishing golf. Perhaps it’s easier to admire rather than love relentless perfection.
Quote of the Week
I’m the best. I just haven’t played yet.