Englishman Tommy Fleetwood closed the gap on Spain’s Sergio Garcia to just 137,235 points at the top of the Race to Dubai after a stellar performance at Erin Hills Golf Club saw him take fourth place in just his second appearance in the US Open.
The 2017 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship winner continued what is proving to be a breakout year on the European Tour by notching his fifth top-five finish of the season in Wisconsin after a closing round 72 left him 11 under par 277 for the tournament, five strokes behind winner Brooks Koepka after the former European Tour and Challenge Tour player equalled the US Open scoring record with a 16 under par winning total of 272.
Having missed the cut in all but one of his previous seven Major championship outings it was another big step forward for Fleetwood, who gained 504,738 points in the Race to Dubai Rankings Presented by Rolex, for his fourth-place finish to take his season total to 2,421,253, having also showed his mettle for the big occasion by claiming the runner-up spot at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
"I've never contended for a Major before," said Fleetwood, who shot rounds of 67, 70, 68 and 72. "So when you get to Saturday and Sunday, you've got to see how you react and how you feel.
“I felt yesterday I played great. Today my game wasn't quite there, but still got it round in level par.”
Fleetwood started the final round tied with Koepka at 11 under, one stroke off Brian Harman’s lead and alongside Justin Thomas after the latter had broken the US Open single round scoring record with a nine under par 63 in the third round. But the Southport man’s American playing partner went out like a rocket as Koepka carded three birdies in his first eight holes while Fleetwood’s front nine yielded a mixed bag of two birdies and three bogeys.
The big hitting Koepka, a four-time winner during the two and a half seasons he played on the Challenge Tour before promotion to the European Tour saw him claim the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open, took advantage of huge 7,845-yard Erin Hills layout – the longest US Open course in history – in addition to showing unerring accuracy from tee to green.
He dropped his first shot of the day on the 10th but steadied the ship with pars on the next two holes before a crucial moment saw him save par with a long 10-foot putt on the 13th. The clutch putt seemed to re-energise him as he went on a three-hole birdie run from the 14th to the 16th which effectively sealed the victory after signing for 67 and a record equalling 16 under par total, making him the seventh first-time Major winner in succession.
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama and America’s Harman shared second place at 12 under while Fleetwood, who picked up one final shot on the 14th but didn’t quite have enough left in the tank to keep pace with his victorious playing partner, finished one stroke further back.
The USA’s Patrick Reed made significant strides in the Race to Dubai, finishing 13th to gain 182,284 points which boosted him from 104th place to 51st and took his season total to 297,074 as he hunts down a return to the season-ending DP World Tour Championship, taking place at Jumeirah Golf Estates from November 16-19 for the first time since 2015.
Bernd Wiesberger and Eddie Pepperell shared 16th place with Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar and Chez Reavie and each gained 140,421 points. Weisberger improved his Race to Dubai position from seventh to sixth, with a 1,259,007 total, while the result was a much-needed fillip for Pepperrell, who secured his place in the field through qualifying, as it boosted his position from 159th place to 71st, taking his season tally to 198,033.
Race to Dubai leader Garcia gained 111,893 points for his 21st place finish to take his total to 2,552,488 and he was joined by Sweden’s David Lingmerth who moved from 190th to 95th with 146,354 for the season.
It couldn’t be closer at the top of the Race to Dubai as the European Tour heads into a crucial period with next week’s BMW International Open being followed by three consecutive US$7,000,000 Rolex Series events prior to The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.