* Equals record winning total at 16-under
* Seventh consecutive first-time major winner
* Matsuyama, Harman tie for second (Adds quotes, detail)
By Steve Keating
ERIN, Wisconsin, June 18 (Reuters) - American Brooks Koepka held firm against buffeting winds and crushing pressure to claim a sensational four-shot victory at the U.S. Open on Sunday and become the latest in a growing line of first-time major winners.
The muscular American, who started the day one back of the lead, tamed his nerves and a wind-whipped Erin Hills carding six birdies, including two to kick-start his round, against a single bogey for a five-under 67 to finish four clear of compatriot Brian Harman (72) and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama (66).
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood shot 72 to finish fourth on 11-under, with Americans Bill Haas, Xander Schauffele and Rickie Fowler another stroke back.
Koepka’s winning total of 16-under equals the lowest score to par for a U.S. Open, matching Rory McIlroy’s victory at Congressional in 2011 on a par-71 layout.
It also marks the seventh consecutive major that has crowned a first time winner.
Koepka, who had just one PGA Tour win on his resume coming into the championship, inherits the trophy from good friend and world number one Dustin Johnson.
”Dustin actually called me last night and told me the same thing, just stay patient,“ said Koepka. ”Just keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to win the thing.
”I felt like that has been the thing lately with me, why I haven’t really played that well, I’ve been trying to win so badly.
“I felt like I’ve underachieved.”
After days of being humbled, Erin Hills turned nasty for the final round as heavy winds pummeled the links-style layout adding an intriguing wrinkle to the year’s second major.
But Koepka would not be blown off course producing a near-flawless final round, subduing the winds with a mix of power and precision.
”Obviously the wind picked up and I felt like that played right in my hand,“ said Koepka. ”Good ball-striker, good putter. And I felt confident all week.
“So to feel as confident as I did on a Sunday of a major and coming down the stretch was pretty neat.”
Having spent a good part of his golfing apprenticeship traveling the globe sleeping in cars and working his way up through the European minor tour, Koepka now steps into the U.S. sporting spotlight.
One of golf’s biggest hitters, the 27-year-old also demonstrated a killer instinct along with a deft touch with the putter, rolling in a monster 41-foot birdie putt at the eighth.
When Matsuyama, at number four the highest ranked player to make the cut, delivered the round of the day a six-under 66 to get within one of the lead, a rampaging Koepka countered with golf’s version of the knockout punch, clinching victory in ruthless style by registering three straight birdies from the 14th.
Harman, level with Koepka with six to play and without a bogey on the back nine all week, took his first at the 12th after his tee shot ended up in the belt-high fescue and followed that up with another at the 13th.
The miscues put Koepka alone back on top of the leaderboard, a perch from which he would not be removed.
”It hasn’t sunk in, obviously, yet, and probably won’t for a few days,“ said Koepka. ”That’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced and to do it on Father’s Day it’s pretty neat.
“I didn’t exactly get my dad a card, so this works.” (Editing by Andrew Both)