Wonderful Woodland secures US Open title at Pebble Beach
Woodland held his nerve with a superb pitch at the 17th and a 30-foot birdie at the last to win by three shots.
American Gary Woodland struggled to put into words the feeling of winning his first major title on Father’s Day after holding off the challenge of defending champion Brooks Koepka to win the 119th US Open.
Woodland carded a final round of 69 at Pebble Beach to finish 13 under par and three shots clear of Koepka, who had threatened to become just the second player to win three straight US Opens and claim an amazing fifth major victory in his last nine starts.
England’s Justin Rose was tied for the lead after a birdie on the opening hole but faded on the back nine to share third with Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie, while the expected challenge from Rory McIlroy never materialised after a double bogey on the second.
Woodland had failed to convert any of his seven 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour into a win, but the 35-year-old from Kansas withstood the stubborn challenge of Rose and early charge from Koepka to land the title and first prize of 2.25million US dollars.
Moments after holing the winning putt, Woodland embraced his mother and father behind the 18th green, while his wife Gabby was at home as she is expecting twin girls in August.
The couple lost one of the twins they were expecting two years ago and their surviving son Jaxson, who celebrates his second birthday next week, was born prematurely weighing just three pounds.
I probably did not realise how special it all was until I became a father Gary Woodland
“It’s hard not being with them and I’m excited to get home and see them and have a little birthday party,” Woodland said.
“But it’s nice to have my dad here. I would not be here without him. I probably did not realise how special it all was until I became a father.”
After Koepka made a flying start with four birdies in his first five holes, Woodland responded with birdies on the second and third and twice enjoyed a three-shot lead before carding just his third bogey of the week on the ninth.
Koepka closed to within a shot of the lead for the first time with a birdie on the 11th, only to promptly bogey the next after finding sand off the tee.
Woodland was starting to feel the pressure and dropped his second shot in four holes on the 12th, but then struck what proved to be the vital blow with a stunning approach from 263 yards on the 14th which landed just over the greenside bunker and ran a few inches off the green.
From there, the world number 25 chipped to three feet and tapped in for his first birdie since the third hole and he effectively sealed victory with a sublime pitch from the corner of the 17th green which span to a halt just two feet from the hole.
Woodland, who has worked hard on his short game with renowned Yorkshire coach Pete Cowen, then put the icing on the cake by holing from 30 feet for birdie on the 18th.
“The drive on 14 was huge and then I hit a great second shot,” Woodland added.
“The idea was to play to win. I could have easily laid up but my caddie gave me a lot of confidence when he told me to hit 3-wood and that birdie kind of separated me a little bit.
“On 17 I had that shot earlier this week and it’s the second time I got it up and down. I would have taken four if I had to but it came off perfectly.”
Koepka, who has now finished first, second, first and second in his last four majors, was magnanimous in defeat, saying: “Gary played a helluva round today, props to him for the way he hung in there. It was pretty cool.
“When I was on 18 I realised I was that close to accomplishing something that has not been done in more than 100 years and that’s special, but I don’t think anybody in the world played as good as Gary did.”
Rose had relied heavily on his scrambling skills all week but was finally found out on the back nine as he dropped three shots in the space of four holes.
“I made three good saves at nine, 10 and 11 and I was right in the tournament but then just kept missing in the wrong spot,” Rose said.
“And the putter wasn’t quite as warm today as it was yesterday. It took a bit of a day off. But I felt like I had to have a day where I pieced everything together to win. It was close.
“But coming in, once momentum leaves you a little bit, it just becomes hard to grind it out.”