“With a score of 271, the Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal for the winner of the 119th U.S Open goes to Gary Woodland of Topeka, Kansas.”
With those words, Mike Davis, the USGA CEO, presented Gary Woodland, 35, with his biggest prize to date.
“It was special, to finish it off here at Pebble Beach,” Woodland said after being presented the trophy at the victory ceremony.
The Topeka native denied defending champion Brooks Koepka’s bid for an historic threepeat with two clutch shots and finished off in style with an exclamation point by sinking a lengthy putt for birdie on the final hole.
That final putt gave him the lowest 72-hole score in six U.S. Opens at Pebble Beach, and a three-shot victory over Koepka, who was going for a third straight U.S. Open.
WHAT A WAY TO FINISH!
— U.S. Open (USGA) (@usopengolf) June 17, 2019
Koepka had to settle for a footnote in history as the first player to shoot all four rounds in the 60s at the U.S Open without hoisting the victory trophy.
However, he made Woodland earn every bit of his first major championship.
Clinging to a one-shot lead with more pressure than he has ever felt, Woodland seized control by going for the green on the par-5 14th hole with a 3-wood from 263 yards, narrowly clearing a cavernous bunker and setting up a simple up-and-down for a two-shot lead.
Even more significant was a shot from 90 feet.
Woodland hit the edge of the green on the par-3 17th all the way to the right, with the pin on the hourglass green on the other side.
Ahead on the 18th, Koepka’s 3-iron went just over the back of the green, leaving him a chip for eagle to tie, with a birdie likely to do the trick considering what Woodland faced. Koepka chipped to just inside 10 feet and missed the putt.
But Woodland delivered again. Unable to use putter to get it close, he perfectly clipped a pitch over the mound, and it checked about 12 feet short of the hole and trickled down to tap-in range.
That effectively ended the U.S. Open. Woodland played conservatively down the 18th and made one last birdie that only mattered in the record book. He finished at 13-under 271, one shot better than Tiger Woods’ historic rout in 2000.
Koepka closed with a 68 for his second runner-up in the majors this year, along with his second straight PGA Championship title.
Justin Rose was the only one who caught Woodland, with a birdie on the opening hole. Rose bogeyed from the bunker on No. 2, and fell out of the race with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine. He shot 74 and shared third with Xander Schauffele (67), Jon Rahm (68) and Chez Reavie (71).
“It took me a lot to learn to control adrenaline; and other sports you use adrenaline to your advantage,” Woodland said. “Out here, when I get a little excited, I need to find a way to calm myself back down.
“When I first got out here (on tour), if I got excited, I couldn’t control it. I didn’t know how far the ball was going, got ahead of myself. I’ve learned to take an extra deep breath and really start controlling everything, and not just the game, controlling the mental side, too.”