Southampton - Brooks Koepka was practically the last name on
anyone's lips at the 118th US Open on Thursday - but that didn't matter when he
hoisted the trophy for a second straight year on Sunday.
"I always feel like I'm overlooked. It doesn't bug me.
I just keep doing what I'm doing, keep plugging away," said Koepka, who despite
his defending champion status was flying under the radar at Shinnecock Hills,
where Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, world number one Dustin Johnson and multiple
major winner Rory McIlroy were generating pre-tournament buzz.
Some thought Koepka's US Open triumph at Erin Hills last
year was an anomaly - coming on a non-traditional championship venue where the
wide-open fairways were easy pickings for a long-hitter like Koepka.
And since his major breakthrough the 28-year-old had missed
almost four months - including the Masters in April - with a partially torn
ligament in his left wrist.
There's no doubt now, however, that Koepka is back, and he
has proved his major mettle on the toughest test the US Open can offer.
After four grinding days at Shinnecock Hills - which first
hosted a US Open in the 19th century - it was Koepka who topped the leaderboard
with a one-over par total.
Woods and McIlroy were long gone by then - missing the
Johnson, masterful in building a four-stroke lead through 36
holes, came back to the field during the brutal third round - when Mickelson
underscored his irrelevance with a silly rules infraction.
As Koepka emerged from a tightly bunched field on Sunday,
Johnson simply couldn't keep pace.
Even Tommy Fleetwood with a stunning 63 couldn't run Koepka
"I don't want to say I didn't think I could do it, but
I knew that it was going to be that much more difficult," Koepka said of
winning a second major.
"It's much more gratifying the second time. I can really
appreciate how hard it is to win a major, and to win back-to-back is
Koepka, who has now finished 14th or better - with two wins
- in nine of his last 10 major starts, was running hot with a streak of eight
straight US PGA Tour top-20 finishes when his wrist injury sidelined him.
"I didn't miss it until I knew I wasn't going to be at
Augusta," he said. "When I knew I wasn't going to be at Augusta,
probably about a week before, I really did miss it.
"I missed the preparation. I miss competing. I've got
to be competing at something. It doesn't matter what it is. I just feel like I
need to be out grinding."
He has barely missed a beat in his return, finishing tied
for 11th at the Players Championship last month and runner-up at the Fort Worth
Invitational with three rounds of 67 or better as he warmed up for his title
Now that he's a multiple major winner, Koepka - who jumped
from ninth to fourth in the world golf rankings with his win - is unlikely to
be flying under the radar when any major comes around.
"A US Open is always going to be a tough test," he
said. "The Open Championship I think suits (my game) very well, and we
always seem to play good at the PGA.
"The only one I haven't figure out is Augusta -
hopefully I'll figure that one out soon."