PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Gary Woodland stared down the game's best player, on one of the sport's most iconic venus, and never blinked.
The 35-year-old from Kansas hit a 3-wood for the ages and one of the gutsiest chips ever to shoot a final-round 69 and win the 2019 U.S. Open. His 13-under total resulted in a three-shot win over Brooks Koepka, who charged early but couldn't summon enough late birdies in his quest for a third straight U.S. Open title.
Woodland, who before Sunday was 0 for 7 in converting 54-hole leads on Tour, entered the final round at 11 under, good enough for a one-shot lead over Justin Rose. Koepka and Chez Reavie were three shots further behind to start the day, but Koepka took no time at all to make it clear that he would be the biggest threat to Woodland. The two-time defending champion birdied four of his first five holes to reach 11–under and remained hot on Woodland's heels all afternoon on a cool, overcast day at Pebble Beach.
Three of the world's top four players entered Sunday with a chance: Koepka (No. 1), Rose (3) and Rory McIlroy (4), who began the final round at 6–under. But Rose's erratic ball striking finally caught up to him—his putter, which for the first three days covered up his tee-to-green shortcomings, finally went cold—and McIlroy made two double bogeys en route to a another disappointing major Sunday. Rose's 74 saw him finish tied for third, while McIlroy's 71 saw him finish tied ninth.
Another major champion put himself in position with a torried start. Adam Scott was 6–under for his round and 9–under overall, squarely in contention, when he push-sliced his tee shot out of bounds on 13. It was a shocking miscue that torpedoed his chances. He made double and finished tied for seventh at 7 under.
Koepka, on the other hand, wouldn't budge. Woodland's lead was a single shot when he stood on the par-5 14th fairway, deciding whether to go for the green in two. Over the next 45 minutes, he would hit the two best pressure shots of his life. First, his second into the par-5 14th after he opted to go for it: an uphill, 263-yard 3-wood that flew the greenside bunker, landed softly and finished just off the green. He converted that herculean effort into a birdie for a two-shot cushion as he turned toward the Pacific for Pebble's final three holes.
After solid pars on 15 and 16, Woodland flared his tee shot into the difficult par-3 17th, finishing on the fringe to the right of the green. That left him with an impossible putt to a back-left pin; the only way he could get the ball close was hitting a lob wedge off a super-tight lie—an ultimate high-risk, high-reward shot. The kind of shot that, if pulled off, lives forever. And if mishit, disaster.
He nipped it perfectly. The ball cooperated. It landed on a downslope, put on the breaks then trickled out to tap-in range.
Not two minutes later, Koepka failed to convert a simple up-and-down for birdie on 18, missing a nine-footer on the low side.
That gave Woodland a two-shot lead as he came to 18. He hit his trusty stinger off the tee, a solid layup and played his third into the fat part of the green. Then, for good measure, he holed a 30-footer for birdie.
"Gary, Gary," the crowd chanted, serenading the new major champion.