Portrush caddy Ricky Elliott makes it back-to-back US Opens with Brooks Koepka
A Northern Irishman has successfully defended his US Open title... as a caddy!
Portrush man Ricky Elliott, caddy to US Open champion Brooks Koepka, last night made it back-to-back wins in America's premier championship when his player won his second Major title.
Koepka held off stern opposition at Shinnecock Hills from the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson to retain the title he won at Erin Hills a year previous.
And on the bag with him the whole way was Ulsterman Elliott, who was also his assistant at Erin Hills a year previous.
For the second year in a row, Elliott has bagged a tasty sum of $200,000 (£151,000) for his role in Koepka's championship win, just under 10% of the $2.16million given to his player.
The 41-year old, who had a successful career as an amateur player when he won the Ulster Boys' and Ulster Youths' Championships, has been on the bag for Koepka for the last six years.
The pair linked up after Elliott had spells with Maarten Lafeber and former Open Championship winner Ben Curtis.
Having already won a Major with Koepka last year, Elliott admitted that this one was less of a surprise and more validation for the talent that Koepka possesses.
"I guess when you win the first one, it's like such a surprise, because to win a major is like... it just happens for some people," Elliott told Michael Collins of ESPN.
"But I think it's validation that (Koepka) is one of the best players in the world. It's not easy to win one; but if you win two, I think it will feel even better."
It was a brilliant final round for the now World No.4 who, after seeing Fleetwood post a record-equalling 63 to set the score in the clubhouse at +2, always stayed just that step ahead of the chasing pack.
A crucial bogey save (yes, bogey) at the 11th just held his momentum, and a birdie at the par-five 16th put him in a position where he could afford to bogey the last for the win.
But all of that might never have happened after Koepka suffered a serious wrist injury that forced him out of action for 15 weeks at the start of the season, including missing The Masters.
However, the American battled back to regain full fitness, and his patience has been rewarded and then some, with Elliott immensely proud of what Koepka pulled off.
"Our goal was to get back to the US Open," Elliott admitted. "He recovered quickly; he did all his work at home, what he had to do to get fit and healthy again.
"You know, we were able to play three or four weeks before the US Open and his game just came back pretty good. If you would have said to me in March that we'd be playing in the US Open, I would have bit my hand off for it! To win it again is just incredible."
What was the key to the win in Elliott's mind?
"He's just a real strong mental guy, he's unflappable," Elliott enthuses. "When he hits a bad shot, he never gives me any grief. He gets on with it.
"I mean, to this day, if we hit one over the back [of the green], he'd probably just turn around to me and go, "Well, I hit that quite a bit hard." Which is unusual for a good athlete or player.
"He takes a huge responsibility in what he's doing out there. Makes my job very easy."
Belfast Telegraph Digital