Gary Woodland added his name to golf’s major winners when holding his nerve on the final day of the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
A three-time PGA Tour winner, big-hitting Woodland proved he has the game of a major champion when finishing on 13-under and three shots clear of Brooks Koepka, who had been bidding to win a historic third straight U.S. Open.
Gary Woodland, who led by two shots after Round 2 and a single shot after Round 3, saw off playing partner Justin Rose during the final round despite the Englishman moving to a share of the lead after the opening hole.
But world number 25 Woodland still needed to maintain his best form and keep his nerves in check when Koepka—who had started the final round four shots back—closed to within one shot after the 13th hole.
But with Koepka unable to find birdies in the closing stretch, it was left to Woodland—a former collegiate basketball player before he turned full time to the game of golf—to sign for a two-under par 69 and a three shot victory.
“It was special,” Gary Woodland said. “I never thought the tournament was over. I never looked too far ahead. Once the putt on 18 went in, I let the emotion come out of me. It’s so special to do it here at Pebble Beach. I played to win.”
It wasn’t to be for Koepka in his hat-trick bid, but it is now runners-up finishes in both the Masters and U.S. Open this year either side of victory in last month’s PGA Championship. He is still impressively boasting four majors wins from his last nine starts.
Koepka did, however, create a piece of unwanted history as the first ever player to post four rounds in the 60s without winning the U.S. Open.
“It was some of the best ball striking I’ve had,” said world-number-one Koepka, despite coming up short on this occasion. “Unfortunately I wasn’t making the putts but Gary did and congratulations to him. That was a cool way to see him finish it off, and go out in style like that.
“I thought we had a game pretty early on. I closed the gap and you never know what’s going to happen down the stretch. I just tried to keep the pedal down and make some putts but I didn’t hole enough.
“I’m very pleased with how I played. I played my heart out. It just wasn’t good enough this week. Gary played a great four days. That’s what you’ve got to do if you want to win a U.S. Open and hats off to him. He deserves it, he’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.”
A three-over par round left former champion Rose in tied third on seven-under along with Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie.
Rory McIlroy faded into a tie for ninth, while Tiger Woods ended the tournament in tied 21st after a solid but unspectacular week back at the scene of his first U.S. Open victory in 2000.