U.S. Open 2019: Gary Woodland holds off Brooks Koepka to win U.S. Open at Pebble Beach
Woodland, a 35-year-old Kansas native, shot a two-under 69 and finished 13 under overall, three shots clear of Koepka (68), who entered Sunday trying to claim his third straight U.S. Open title and fifth overall.
Woodland, ranked 25th in the world, started the day with a one-shot lead over Justin Rose and was four clear of Koepka, Chez Reavie and Louis Oosthuizen. But Koepka, playing in the group ahead of Woodland and Rose, came out firing. He birdied the 1st, made a great par save on 2 and then birdied three straight on 3, 4 and 5.
But Woodland, who had turned in two top 10s in his last three majors, wasn’t fazed. He birdied the 2nd and 3rd and didn’t make his first bogey until the 9th when he missed the fairway and had to wedge out and couldn’t save par. He turned in one-under 34 and led Koepka and Rose by two.
“I think the big deal is to enjoy the pressure,” Woodland said. “Obviously it’s an uncomfortable situation leading in a major championship after 36 holes, after 54 holes. But I kept telling myself, even this morning, to enjoy this moment. Enjoy the pressure. Enjoy the stress. Enjoy being uncomfortable. And don’t shy away from it, embrace it. And that’s what I really tried to do, is embrace that pressure all day. And I think that helped me stay a little more calm.”
Koepka, who was three under on the front nine, birdied No. 11 to get to 11 under and make it just a one-shot lead, but that’s when the nerves started to hit the final two groups. Koepka missed the green on the par-3 12th and couldn’t save par from the bunker, and he fell back to two off the pace. Rose and Woodland both made bogey on 12 as well, and again the deficit was one. Rose went on to add two more bogeys on 13 and 15 and fell out of the hunt.
But Woodland followed his bogey on 12 with a par on 13, and after nearly finding the par-5 14th green in two he converted the easy up and down for birdie and regained a two-shot lead over Koepka, who made five straight pars after his bogey on 12.
Koepka stepped to the par-5 18th tee two shots back and ripped his drive down the middle of the fairway. No eagles had been made on the 18th all day, and Koepka’s 3-iron landed on the green but skipped over. He gave himself a birdie putt, but he left that on the right edge and made par.
Behind Koepka, Woodland made a crafty par save on 17 and then capped his victory with a 30-foot birdie bomb on 18.
“I think from a mental standpoint I was as good as I’ve ever been,” Woodland said. “I never let myself get ahead of myself. I never thought about what would happen if I won, what comes with it. I wanted to execute every shot. I wanted to stay in the moment. I wanted to stay within myself. I knew I was playing good going in, but I’ve been playing good going into a lot of tournaments before and haven’t had the results I’d like. I was proud of myself to stay in it, to slow down a little bit, to slow my thinking down and really focus on what I was doing and not let my mind wander at all.”
Besides being his first major title, it’s Woodland’s fourth career PGA Tour victory. His last came in 2018 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.