Thursday, 14 December 2017
Brooks Koepka  (Getty Images)
Brooks Koepka (Getty Images)

The U.S. Open will always hold a special place in the hearts of the Koepka family. In 2012 their eldest son, a promising amateur golfer, earned a spot at the Olympic Club to compete alongside the world’s best.

The following month he turned professional after jetting off to Europe and signing up for the Challenge Tour.

Within five years, he had returned to the U.S. Open and become its champion. What a rise it has been for Brooks Koepka, now firmly established as one of the global golfing elite.

That his journey to the very top began on the Challenge Tour was merely emphasised by the comments he made immediately after lifting one of the four biggest prizes in the game.

“You look back a couple of years ago to be on the Challenge Tour,” he said, “four guys driving around in a little mini car, four golf bags packed in there, to be the U.S. Open champ is pretty cool.

“To go over to Europe and kind of cut your teeth over there and be able to play in different conditions is what you need to do.

“I built on those wins on the Challenge Tour, any time you can win you're going to have confidence and I look back at those.”

Seasoned Challenge Tour observers would have been unsurprised by this meteoric rise – which had already seen him become a champion on the European and PGA Tours as well as a Ryder Cup winner – following his eye-catching exploits soon after he crossed the Atlantic in 2012.

Then just 22 years old, the Floridian made his first five cuts, finishing in the top ten in England and tying for fifth in the Finnish Challenge, as he immediately looked at home on the Challenge Tour.

Having arrived in July, Koepka would already be in the winners’ circle by the end of September as he seized control of the rain-affected Challenge de Catalunya, taking a three-shot victory and the biggest title of his career thus far.

What followed in 2013 was remarkable. Ten Challenge Tour appearances. Seven top tens. Three victories. Immediate promotion to the European Tour secured before the end of June – the latest golfing superstar had emerged.

That steady rise has continued ever since. 2014 brought a maiden European Tour victory in Turkey, 2015 a first win on home soil on the PGA Tour and 2016 a triumphant debut appearance for Team USA in the Ryder Cup.

Comfortably established in the top 20 of the Official World Golf Ranking as 2017 began, a Major Championship was one of the few remaining boxes for Koepka to tick – and he soon did so in some style.

Koepka meant business from the moment he arrived at Erin Hills in June. He shared the halfway lead and started the final day one shot behind leader Brian Harman.

That deficit did not last long.

A birdie-birdie start gave Koepka control of the tournament, but it was on the back nine on Sunday – the clichéd, fabled time when true champions shine – that he really excelled, reeling off three straight birdies from the 14th hole to walk down the last with an unassailable lead.

Harman’s closing bogey meant that Koepka ultimately won by four shots, with his 16 under par total an outstanding one for a U.S. Open – Rory McIlroy in 2011 the only player to have shot lower in the 117 stagings of the event.

Koepka’s win took the Challenge Tour’s Major haul to eight, by seven players, following Michael Campbell, Trevor Immelman, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson as the alumni to previously lift one of the game’s four top prizes.

It also was the fourth time a Challenge Tour alumnus has won the U.S. Open, making it the most successful Major for the tour’s past players.

Meanwhile, the name Koepka continued to shine on this season’s Road to Oman as Brooks’ younger brother Chase emerged as one of the stars of 2017, following the same trail that Brooks had blazed by developing his game on the Challenge Tour.

Chase would go on to secure a place in the top 15 before the end of September and ultimately finished in ninth place in the Rankings to complete an outstanding year for the Koepka family – there are sure to be many more of those in the years to come.

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