ERIN, Wis. – Brian Harman didn’t lose Sunday’s U.S. Open. Brooks Koepka just won it. That’s how Harman sees it.
The turning point came on Erin Hills’ back nine after Harman made bogeys at Nos. 12 and 13.
“Then I made the birdie at 14 and he birdies 14, 15 and 16,’’ said Harman. “That was kind of lights out. You’ve got to tip your cap. He went out and won the tournament on the back nine. I’ve done that before, but he did it today.’’
Koepka talked afterwards about feeling like an under-achiever until he won his first major title. Harman could identify with that.
“When I was a young junior golfer I definitely perceived myself contending in majors,’’ he said. “Not that I’m an old man by any means, but I am 30. So for me I am trying to make up for some lost time. I don’t know why, but that’s the way I feel.’’
MONEY-MAKERS: The tourney’s $12 million purse represents another big jump in recent years. In 2003 it was $6 million, in 2014 it was $9 million and in 2015 it hit $10 million.
Last year Dustin Johnson’s first-place prize was $1.8 million. Koepka earned $2,160,000 for his victory on Sunday.
A BREEZE: Jordan Spieth was the ninth player to tee off on Sunday and the wind was at its worst, approaching 30 miles per hour. That didn’t keep Spieth from shooting a 3-under-par 69 – his best round of the tournament.
“A fantastic round of golf, given what we were dealing with to start the day,’’ he said. Conditions got easier as the day went on and Spieth left a happier man than he’d been all week.
“I struck the ball the same way I have been. I hit 17 greens, which was just awesome in these conditions,’’ he said. And then my expectations were lowered on the greens given the conditions. That was the difference. I was able to get to a few under by just accepting the fact that the putt might miss instead of having to have it perfect. Maybe a day like today is all I needed to just kind of calm down.’’
HEROES AT HOME: Steve Stricker and Jordan Niebrugge, the two Wisconsin players in the finals, finished up in style. Stricker shot 69-69 on the weekend to get to 5-under for the tournament. Making birdies on three of the last five holes, Niebrugge was 3-under on his final nine and was 1-over for the 72 holes.
Stricker hosts a Champions Tour event, the American Family Insurance Championship, at University Ridge in Madison this week while Niebrugge just learned he has a spot in the Web.com Tour’s Lincoln Land Charity Championship, at Panther Creek in Springfield, IL.
SCHEFFLERS WIN: The battle for low amateur at the U.S. Open was a two-man duel between Texans. Scottie Scheffler of Texas was 1-under-par in edging Cameron Champ of Texas A&M by one stroke. It was a team win for the Schefflers as Scottie’s sister Cali worked as his caddie.
WHAT’S THE BEEF? Andrew “Beef’’ Johnson has been popular with the galleries whenever he comes over from London to play in a tournament, but his popularity was magnified at Erin Hills.
“It’s been wicked,’’ said Johnston. “The people have been so good to me. Hopefully they’ve had fun watching me, as well, because I’ve had fun with them. I never dreamt of this. To have the support is just crazy.’’
A WIND PLAYER: Veteran Matt Kuchar took advantage of the windier conditions on Sunday to finish his U.S. Open with a 4-under-par 68.
“I was looking forward to tougher conditions, knowing that I’d have a chance to make up a lot of ground,’’ he said. “I did just that.’’
He gave Erin Hills high grades in its first year as a U.S. Open site.
“The course was great. The people were great,’’ said Kuchar. “The tournament was really well run. We’ll be leaving on a high note.’’