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In the contest of guts and nerve and skill that was the final round of the 119th U.S. Open, Gary Woodland was the last man standing.
Woodland, 35, shot a two-under-par 69 at Pebble Beach Golf Links to win his first career major and deny Brooks Koepka (68) the chance to become the first man to win three straight U.S. Opens in more than a century. Koepka had to settle for a footnote in history as the first player to record four rounds in the 60s at the U.S Open without winning.
On Twitter, President Trump praised Woodland’s “[f]antastic playing” and “great heart” before predicting “there will be more [major championships] in Gary’s future!”
Woodland’s 13-under 271 was three shots better than Koepka and six shots better than Justin Rose (74), who matched Koepka shot-for-shot for most of the final 36 holes before fading badly with a stretch of three bogeys in four holes on the back nine Sunday. Xander Schauffele (67), Jon Rahm (68) and Chez Reavie (71) joined Rose in a four-way tie for third at 7-under par.
Gary Woodland. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Koepka, playing with fellow American Reavie in the penultimate pairing, started his day four shots back of Woodland, but quickly closed the gap with four birdies in the first five holes.
Despite the hot start, Koepka missed some opportunities to draw even closer. He could only manage par at the par-5 6th hole and saw a 10-foot birdie putt slide by the right edge of the hole at the par-3 7th. The trouble continued at the 8th hole when Koepka’s approach shot failed to clear the gap between the fairway and the green. The 29-year-old found his ball in the hazard but had to settle for his first bogey in 35 holes, dropping him back to 10-under par.
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Woodland was not without his struggles, either. After getting to 13-under with birdies at No. 2 and No. 3, he rattled off five consecutive pars before an errant tee shot at No. 9 led to his first bogey of the day. Another poor effort off the tee at the par-3 12th cost Woodland another shot, and suddenly Koepka was just one stroke behind.
The par-5 14th hole saw the defining shot of Woodland’s championship. Sitting in the fairway with a one-shot lead, Woodland opted to go for the green in two. The ensuing 3-wood narrowly cleared the bunker guarding the front left of the green and nestled into the second cut of greenside rough 16 feet from the cup. Woodland’s third shot was a feathery chip to within four feet of the hole and he drained the birdie putt to take a two-shot lead over Koepka.
There was almost one more twist late in the day as Woodland left his tee shot on No. 17 on the front right edge of the hourglass green. But moments apart, Woodland wedged his second shot to within three feet of the hole to make par while Koepka’s 9-foot birdie putt on No. 18 curled past the right edge of the cup. And with that, Koepka’s last chance of the three-peat was gone.
With one hole still to play, Woodland wrapped up his victory in style, methodically working his way up the par-5 18th before rolling in a 30-foot birdie putt as the gallery roared and chanted his name.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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