Everyone knows the stars in U.S. Open field: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson ... the names roll off our tongue with ease. But what about Brooks Koepka? While he might not be a household name just yet, the up-and-coming golfer has a chance to make some noise this week at the U.S. Open.
Koepka, a three-time All-American at Florida State University, will be making his first major championship start this week at Olympic Club, after qualifying at the U.S. Open sectional in Florida. (Side note: He beat 14-year-old Andy Zhang in a playoff.)
He'll be writing all week for Devil Ball about his first U.S. Open experience. (You can also follow Brooks on Twitter at @BKoepka.)
SAN FRANCISCO — Grinding out pars is part of golf. When you start playing competitively, you learn from the get-go that if you want to win, or contend for that matter, you need to be able to take bogey and double out of the equation by getting up and down from everywhere.
It sounds incredibly simple, but trying to execute that game plan at a major championship is an entirely different story. The greens here this week had firmed up over the last couple of days, and you could definitely feel a difference between them from Wednesday to when I teed off in the last group on Thursday.
They were playing with about eight paces of rollout, which meant you needed to land everything short and let it funnel towards the hole. Firing at any pin at Olympic Club is a death sentence, because long usually leaves you with a delicate chip. With so many pin locations tucked just a few paces from the edge of the green, I had to play safe for most of the day.
But that's U.S. Open golf. You know the pins are going to be tough, and that you're going to make bogeys out there; it's just a matter of trying to keep the doubles away. Through my first nine holes I felt like I was in control of my game, rolling in putts and stringing pars together. I turned in 1-under 35 and felt pretty confident about my game, but for some reason I lost my swing over the last eight holes.
After teeing off on the first hole (I started on the ninth), I ended up bogeying three straight and things just kind of got away from me. Most golfers out there know the U.S. Open is probably the toughest test in golf, but seeing it firsthand you really start to understand how there's almost no room for error when you're out here.
Olympic is one of the toughest courses I've ever played, most because the fairways are so narrow and slope in one direction, forcing you to hit the correct side or watch your ball roll into the rough.
I thought my tee shot on the par-4 fifth hole was going to be fine, but then it landed in the fairway, took a big kick left and ended up behind a tree. I ended up having to hit a wedge over the tree to get it back in play.
My day finished with a double bogey, bogey finish that I wasn't particularly please about, but overall, I felt like I stayed in the moment and remained patient even when things weren't going my way. My 7-over 77 could have been a lot better if I didn't make a few silly mistakes, but I'll try and get back on track on Friday and see what happens.
The goal is simple on Friday: try and keep double off the scorecard. I think if I can do that I'll be OK. The U.S. Open has certainly been a learning experience for me. I'm just thankful I have another day to go out there and see what I can do.