Biggest winners and losers from the 2019 U.S. Open

June 17, 2019

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Gary Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open. You already know that. But you might be surprised to hear about the other hard-working pros that also emerged as winners at Pebble — and those who suffered the worst losses. Let’s break down who fell where.


Gary Woodland. Let’s just get this one out of the way. Joined the immortal ranks of U.S. Open winners at Pebble. Took home a check for $2.25 million. Validated his entire career. Solid four days’ work.

Brooks Koepka. Yeah, he didn’t win. But Brooks Koepka entered Pebble Beach as the newly-crowned world No. 1. King Koepka beat 154 players. He finished solo 2nd, capping off five top-2s in six majors and reminding everyone who the player to beat really is.

Xander Schauffele. T6, T2, T35, T2, T16, T3. Those are Xander Schauffele’s last six major championship results, showing that this is a guy who absolutely throws down under the bright lights. And as a bonus, he’s young enough where he still gets credit for contending rather than shade for not winning.


Brooks Koepka sizes up a putt in the fourth round at Pebble Beach.

The USGA. Here I would like to sub in celebrity co-writer Brandel Chamblee.

“Nobody had a better week – and that’s saying a lot – than the USGA. Nobody had more pressure on them than the USGA. What we saw was really an old, familiar and tough test. And that’s what everybody hopes for in a U.S. Open. Tough, but fair. I think they got a lot of the confidence back of the golf world, a lot of the confidence back of the players. It was great to see.”

So said Chamblee on the course setup, and I tend to think he’s right. The golf course was too soft, but that’s the way it was. Going too aggressive the other way could have meant manipulating the setup, which was really the only way they would potentially mess up a major at Pebble Beach. Instead we got a great leaderboard and no real complaints at all (boring, huh?!).

Viktor Hovland. What a way to end your amateur career! Hovland, who is expected to turn pro Monday as he heads to the Travelers Championship, torched the front nine with a Sunday 31 and birdied No. 18 to cap off one of the day’s lowest rounds. He also drove the golf ball way better than anyone in the field, gaining 8.4 strokes over the course of the week. This guy hit it well enough to win. We expect some hefty professional checks in his near future.


Sure, “losers” might sound a little harsh. But these guys have brighter days ahead; they can take it!

Rory McIlroy. That double bogey on No. 1 Sunday was a bummer on a day when it felt as though someone like Rory could emerge from the back to put pressure on the final pairing — which is what Koepka did. McIlroy essentially opted out with his opening 6, showing that he’s still playing sensational golf but missing one tiny something.

Justin Rose. Here’s what Rose said after a final-round 74 from the final pairing:

“I’m more proud of the fact I even gave myself a chance. I didn’t have my “A” game this week. And to contend in a major with no game, really, I take the positive from that.”

He’s not wrong — Rose was scraping it a bit all week. But to play your way out of contention in a U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on Sunday? That has to hurt. Like Rory, a big-time winner (but also loser) from this week.

Phil Mickelson. This felt like his last big chance to win the U.S. Open, didn’t it? Short golf course, soft setup, high confidence entering the week. But Mickelson shot 5-over on the weekend and never played a serious role. Then again, if we’re grading on “most improved” from Shinnecock, he’d be right near the top.

Sadists and Masochists. Here’s looking at you, Joel Dahmen, Eddie Pepperell and Matthew Fitzpatrick, each chaos agents entering the U.S. Open. There were moments of pain and foolishness, of course, but hardly the pain-fest that some competitors (and a lot of fans) were hoping for.

Par. Thirty-one players under par?! That’s more than the delightful madness of 2018, when zero (0!) players finished under par. Although as one compelling case laid out, there’s one way to adjust this: change the par, not the course, and everything else will follow. (Pebble as a par-69?! Why not?)

Sweater vests. The truthers emerged quickly after Patrick Reed’s epic, efficient club-snap asking one question: “Why is Patrick Reed playing with his shirt untucked?!”

He wasn’t! That was a black sweater vest over a black shirt and a visual illusion. Tiger Woods went red-on-red Sunday and the sweater vest clash clearly took him six holes just to adjust.

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