SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Curtis Strange has some advice for Brooks Koepka ahead of next year’s U.S. Open: Study up on Willie Anderson.
Koepka’s one-shot victory at Shinnecock Hills made him the first back-to-back U.S. Open champion in 29 years, dating to Strange winning his second in a row in 1989. Strange was the first player in 38 years to win consecutive U.S. Opens since Ben Hogan in 1951.
“Nobody wrote about it,” Strange said about his title defense going into Oak Hill. “I didn’t think about repeating. I never went to a tournament thinking I was going to win. I went to a tournament thinking I was going to play well. When you’re not Tiger Woods-caliber, it’s presumptuous to stand on the first tee thinking about winning.”
But when he arrived at Medinah in 1990 with a shot at three in a row, Strange couldn’t escape the attention.
“I wasn’t confident or cocky or arrogant, but I believed I might have a chance,” Strange said. “You can’t help but think because you’re asked about it all the time. I can tell you this: Brooks is going to learn a whole lot more about Willie Anderson than he knows now.”
Anderson, who was born in North Berwick, Scotland, and immigrated to the United States when he was 16, is the only player to win the U.S. Open three times – in 1903 at Baltusrol, in 1904 at Glen View Club in Chicago and in 1905 at Myopia Hunt.
“I knew he won the U.S. Open,” Strange said. “I quickly found out the rest.”
Strange was still buzzing after arriving home in North Carolina over the chance to witness the end of his greatest distinction in golf. He is part of the Fox Sports broadcast, providing analysis while walking the course. Strange typically was with the last group, but when Tony Finau and Daniel Berger dropped back early, he wound up with Koepka and Dustin Johnson.
Strange and Koepka not only shared a brief hug as Koepka walked off the 18th green, Strange’s duty was to interview him before the crowd.
“I thought about asking him how well he knows his golf history,” Strange said with a laugh.
Instead, he asked Koepka about going back-to-back, “Do you know how special this is?”
“It was a little emotional for me,” Strange said. “It was the thrill of my life.”
Schedule shaping up
The PGA Tour filled in some major pieces of the scheduling puzzle last week, starting with the Houston Open going to the fall starting in 2019 under the direction of Houston Astros owner Jim Crane and the Astros Foundation. Then, the tour announced Monday that the 3M Open in Minnesota, a PGA Tour Champions event since 1993, would be on the PGA Tour schedule next summer.
The Houston Open had been penciled in for the date before the U.S. Open, but that doesn’t mean Minnesota takes that spot.
One likelihood is for the RBC Canadian Open to be held a week before the U.S. Open, two of the oldest championships in golf in consecutive weeks.
The Canadian Open in recent years had taken the spot after the British Open, arranging a charter flight for those playing the event. But with a constricted schedule next year to end the FedEx Cup a week before Labor Day, that spot now goes to the World Golf Championship in Tennessee.
The John Deere Classic has a contract to be held before the British Open. A week before that would put Canada on top of the Fourth of July and too close to Canada Day on July 1. It would be tough attracting a strong field, not to mention volunteers.
A move before the U.S. Open is the best fit, especially for the title sponsor of two PGA Tour events. RBC also has Hilton Head a week after the Masters.
That would leave the tour to decide on Minnesota and Detroit after the U.S. Open and before the British Open.
Still to be determined is the order in the fall, with one other surprise. Two people aware of the discussions said the tour is working on a tournament in Japan for this fall that would at least temporarily add to the Asia swing along with stops in Malaysia, South Korea and Shanghai. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the plans have not been finalized.
Dustin in front
Dustin Johnson returned to No. 1 in the world two weeks ago, and he returned to the top of the FedEx Cup standings last week.
It has not been a bad year.
And it could have been even better if Johnson had a stronger record closing out tournaments.
The U.S. Open was the fifth time that Johnson had at least a share of the 54-hole lead. He won two of those events, the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Johnson tied a PGA Tour record by losing a six-shot lead at the HSBC Champions. He was outplayed by Ted Potter Jr. in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and by Brooks Koepka in the final round at Shinnecock Hills.
Johnson now has a 9-8 record when he has at least a share of the 54-hole lead, including a 0-3 mark in the U.S. Open. He lost a three-shot lead at Pebble Beach in 2010 and was tied for the lead at Chambers Bay in 2015 and at Shinnecock. He was the first player since Phil Mickelson at Merion in 2013 to have at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds without winning.
Johnson’s 9-8 record is a little misleading because three of those victories were at tournaments shortened to 54 holes – Pebble Beach in 2009 (rain), The Barclays in 2011 (hurricane) and Kapalua in 2013 (wind).
Steve Stricker was No. 5 in the world, one spot behind Kenny Perry and with no real chance of catching Tiger Woods. Apple’s latest mobile device was the iPhone 3GS. LeBron James was with the Cleveland Cavaliers – the first time around.
That was the last time Stricker missed the cut in a major.
“I don’t know if it’s a streak,” he said after making the cut on the number at the U.S. Open. “It’s just that I want to keep playing. It’s nice to be making cuts, but it’s about more than that.”
The last cut he missed was at Hazeltine in the 2009 PGA Championship. Now the streak is at 25 majors, though Stricker has not played or did not qualify for nine of those majors.
Stricker would like to be at the British Open, but he’ll have to win the John Deere Classic for a fourth time to get there. That would allow him to play the Senior British Open at St. Andrews, and it’s possible Stricker will go over to St. Andrews specifically for the senior major.
“I’m thinking about going over there, just because it is at St. Andrews,” he said. “I do like St. Andrews – the aura, the town, the tournament.”
The deciding factor, as usual, will be what his family wants.
Brooks Koepka moved to the top of the Ryder Cup standings after the first two majors, followed by Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed. Phil Mickelson has dropped out of the automatic top eight qualifiers and is No. 10. With majors counting double, Mickelson tied for 36th at the Masters and tied for 48th in the U.S. Open. … Webb Simpson was planning to have his wife, Dowd, caddie for him at the Greenbrier Classic. Now that’s off the table – she is pregnant with their fifth child. … Steve Stricker has earned $806,235 in five starts on the PGA Tour Champions and is No. 4 in the Charles Schwab Cup. He has made $549,838 in eight starts on the PGA Tour and is No. 130 in the FedEx Cup. … Koepka joined Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Mickelson and Tiger Woods as the only players to win majors in consecutive seasons in the last 25 years.
Stat of the week
Dustin Johnson took 53 putts in the opening two rounds at the U.S. Open. He took 73 putts on the weekend.
“He can do my job, but I can’t do his.” – Graeme McDowell, who missed the cut at the U.S. Open, on Matt Parziale, the firefighter from Massachusetts who tied as the low amateur at Shinnecock Hills.
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