This time, Gary Woodland knew how to take it all the way to the end of a major championship.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable from the situation just because I’ve been in the situation a lot,” Woodland said. “I’ve had a lot of close calls even this year in tournaments.”
Woodland fended off a challenge from the reigning champion and won his first major, shooting 2-under 69 during Sunday’s final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach on the shores of northern California.
Woodland, who’s from Topeka, Kan., finished 13-under 271 for the tournament for a three-shot victory. The 35-year-old, who was a college golfer at Kansas, capped the round with a birdie putt of about 30 feet on the last hole.
“The idea was to play to win,” Woodland said. “I never really thought the tournament was over.”
Brooks Koepka, the two-time defending champion, made it interesting, finishing with 68 after a torrid start to the round. He ended up at 10 under.
Being able to finish ahead of Koepka seemed like an accomplishment in itself.
“Brooks has obviously played phenomenal,” Woodland said. “I don’t know if anybody has done what he’s been doing since Tiger (Woods) did it.”
Koepka, who won last month’s PGA Championship, posted birdies on four of the first five holes. He closed with six straight pars, barely missing a birdie putt on the final hole that would have closed the gap to one stroke at the time.
Woodland, who earlier had rounds of 68, 65 and 69, is only the fifth golfer to have all four rounds below 70 in a U.S. Open. Koepka also did so this week, but he didn’t leave with the big prize.
“I felt like I’ve put myself in good chances where I’m very comfortable around that,” Koepka said. “I felt I’ve given it all I had this week and it’s just not my week (to win).”
Woodland’s chip on No. 17 set up a par to maintain a two-shot edge and was one of the tournament’s defining moments.
“I actually had that shot earlier in the week,” Woodland said. “It came off perfectly (this time). ... I have a short game now I can rely on. I don’t have to focus on the ball-striking. This is a golf course I don’t have to pound a lot of drivers, I can play a little more conservatively, stick to my game plan.”
Woodland’s third bogey of the tournament came on the ninth hole Sunday. He gave another stroke back on No. 12.
Even with Koepka lurking, Woodland held it together to become a four-time winner on the PGA Tour.
Xander Schauffele (67), Chez Reavie (71), England’s Justin Rose (74) and Spain’s Jon Rahm (68) tied for third place at 7 under.
Rose shared the top spot briefly on the final day but couldn’t stay there. He was undone by bogeys on Nos. 12, 13 and 15.
Rahm was among the contenders who felt a sense of accomplishment even without the title.
“Still a great score, still a great U.S. Open,” Rahm said. “Hopefully I can progress in this event in the future.”
With a birdie on the first hole, Rose pulled even with Woodland as the leaders began the round.
Webb Simpson, with birdies on three of the last six holes, shot the best round of the day at 5 under. That put him at 3 under and tied for 16th.
“Made the eagle on (No.) 6 to start me in the right direction,” Simpson said.
Woods, the Masters champion, shot 69 for his best round of the tournament. He ended up at 2 under and tied for 21st place.
After four bogeys on the first six holes, he had six birdies the rest of the way.
“I wish I would have known because I would have turned it around a little earlier than that,” Woods said of the reason for the change of fortunes. “Again, got off to another crappy start and was able to fight it off.”
--Field Level Media