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Brooks Koepka winning a U.S. Open is not a surprise. He’s exactly the kind of talent who should take it.

The 117th U.S. Open did not finish with some manic struggle or dramatic rules controversy. But Brooks Koepka is exactly the kind of star talent you want winning the “toughest test in golf.”

U.S. Open - Final Round
The winner of America’s national championship is one of its brightest young stars.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Ah, the ennui of a U.S. Open on a provocative new course identifying the week’s best player, who also happens to be an up-and-coming American stud hammering balls into the stratosphere.

The 117th U.S. Open did not come down to the final group on the final green. The rules of golf did not entangle it in some memorable drama that provided hours of social media rage and entertainment. All it did was deliver a new scoring record and bring a super talent onto the wider stage.

Maybe we’ve been spoiled or conditioned for chaos as complaints of a sputtering Sunday arose while Brooks Koepka ground the field to dust for his first major championship. Whether it’s the venue, the winner, the rules, or the USGA’s mere existence, U.S. Open week will always ignite complaints, handwringing, and wailing. Whatever your subjective assessment of the final round may be, this was a successful week for the U.S. Open. Here are some happy and sunny notes outlining why.

Brooks Koepka winning a major was not a surprise

Koepka getting a U.S. Open title was not some Cinderella story or longshot catching a heater to exceed expectations. Golf is not the NBA, where the favorites almost always make the finals. It’s not the NFL. It’s not even the MLB, where chance or a hot pitcher can overthrow the top seeds.

Golf is still early in the Tiger-era and maybe we’re still adjusting. Maybe in the Tiger era when some non-Tiger player down the odds list won a major, you could be stunned. But right now, we’re in an era where no such favorite exists. Koepka was the seventh straight first-time major winner and all seven of them — yes, even Danny MC Willett, who was near the top of the world rankings when he won the Masters — were not some longshot or darkhorse surprise.

There are no overwhelming favorites. This week, the top three players in the OWGR missed the cut. They don’t now suck because of it. And the lack of a Tiger or Jack or Hogan-type lead dog at the moment doesn’t mean the game is not deep. Even with those top three missing the cut and a contending group of players who have never won a major, this leaderboard at the start of Sunday still felt stacked with Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama, Tommy Fleetwood, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, and others.

That’s where we are right now — a tournament with the top three in the world missing the cut and a leaderboard with a bunch of non-major winners still felt like it was going to be a heavyweight fight. These fields are, thanks mostly to Tiger’s inspiration, as loaded as ever with players tabbed for major championship careers. Koepka was one of them.

This is a three-time college All-American, PGA Tour and European Tour winner, and dang Ryder Cup team member. He had four top 10s in majors in the last three years and a T11 two months ago at the Masters. His statistical profile in just a few years on Tour always backs up the talking point that he’s one of the best players in the world. Steve Williams, Tiger Woods’ longtime and legendary caddie who knows the game at the highest level as well as anyone on earth, named Koepka as a different kind of talent in the crowded stable. It was an anecdote that made the rounds this weekend again (via Golf Digest):

Once in a great while, a player comes along who hits a golf ball the way it was meant to be hit. Powerful, piercing, the perfect trajectory. Of the young players out there, one I've seen has that special ball flight: Brooks Koepka. Adam and I were paired with him at the Open Championship last year, and from his first tee shot on, I thought, This kid is special. Obviously he's searching to find the other parts of the puzzle, but I haven't seen a ball flight like that since Tiger, and before that, Johnny Miller.

That a wider sports audience maybe had never heard of him did not make the win a stunner. If anything, it just accentuated how deep golf is right now with world class “major championship” talent. This was not the Wizards knocking off the Cavs and Warriors to win an NBA title. It was more like a top NFL draft pick becoming an All-Pro.

Koepka said after the win that he felt he’s underachieved, and he may be right given the deserved rep he has as one of the studs in this game. A major win, especially at the U.S. Open, was not a surprise and could be the first of multiple.

More than a Bomber at a “Bomber’s Paradise”

Golf in its current state is a game obsessed with power. Of course, hitting the ball a long way has always been a part of the deal and an advantage. Jack Nicklaus hit it a long way in his time. But the modern game, at the highest levels, is marketed around power and set up for power players to succeed. The equipment companies are most concerned about selling drivers, hammering you with buzzwords about crushing it and improving your clubhead speed. And it’s the most important club in the bag. Hitting it long is a major advantage at almost every course on the PGA Tour.

Koepka is a bomber, no doubt. He’s built like a linebacker and for power. But to earn the hype and rep I noted above, you have to be more than just some guy who can win a long drive contest. Unfortunately, Koepka’s win and 379-yard 3-wood on the last hole may be reduced to “big hitter wins on longest U.S. Open course ever.” The reality is he just played his ass off all the way through the bag.

Koepka’s all-around ability was most apparent on the hole that probably won him the championship. The 15th, just a short par-4 playing to 356 yards on Sunday, was a brute in the final round. It was scoring as the hardest on the course with a 4.51 average. Koepka’s power would be mitigated here. So he feathered a tee shot just over 200 yards to get into the fairway, a shot he characterized later as poor. Then he “chipped an 8-iron” from what he said was 155 yards to inside 10 feet.

Chipping an 8-iron? This was creativity, touch, feel. Not brute power. The understated and deadpan Koepka called it “unbelievable” and “impressive,” reiterating just how hard this short par-4 was playing. “The pin is hanging off the back and into the wind.”

On a hole where just six birdies had been made all day, the best player this week poured in a tough putt from 10 feet to make it academic. He was the only player to shoot under-par all four rounds, going 67-70-68-67 to match Rory McIlroy’s record relative to par at 16-under. That final round 67 may go underappreciated because there was no one really pushing him in what were, by far, the toughest conditions of the week. The best player won and not just because he can mash.

The Spring Break boys will be fine

Maybe I am going soft in old age, but I am not here for a Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler choked conflagration. These two, along with Brooks, were the bigger names at the top of the board starting Sunday. He won and they didn’t, and so they became the other Sunday story after Koepka’s win.

I think their Sundays have pretty simple and reasonable explanations. Thomas broke a damn U.S. Open record that had stood for 43 years on Saturday and after the mania surrounding that, it’s extremely hard to come back the next day and approximate something like it to win a U.S. Open. He was out of ammo and was out of it early on Sunday, playing in the final group.

That’s fine and excusable at 24 years old. He needs more major contending reps, and this was a good start. Like Koepka, we expect big things coming from the mega-talent who has been hyped since he was a teenager playing alongside Jordan Spieth. And no matter what happened Sunday, we’ll always have that Saturday 63.

U.S. Open - Final Round Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Fowler’s finish was more disappointing and more surprising. But he wasn’t going to chase down Koepka no matter how well he played. Rickie was in the second-to-last group on Sunday at the Masters and third-to-last group on Sunday at the U.S. Open. This was his fifth top-five finish in a major over the last 4.5 years. The field did seem to clear for him on this weekend and make him the centerpiece to get his first.

I was surprised he didn’t have one more birdie streak in him on Sunday. As one of the most popular players on Tour, or the most popular as Fox’s Paul Azinger called him Sunday, he’ll continue to take heat for not winning. But I actually didn’t mind his perspective after a quiet Sunday:

I feel like golf-wise I'm playing at the highest level. If you look at the negatives too much, I mean, you're going to be stuck doing that the whole time.

You have to measure success in different ways, not just by winning, just because that doesn't happen a whole lot. I think Tiger had the best winning percentage of all time at 30%, and you're lucky to even sniff close to 10.

We don’t need all our superstars to be psychotic competitors or pretend to be psychotic competitors in every press conference. Fowler played well again at another major where many of his contemporary superstars missed the cut. Sunday was going to be a futile chase. It’s cliche and maybe not the incendiary take you demand, but he’s going to keep giving himself chances and he will win one.

Erin Hills will be back

The course is always the most discussed topic at any U.S. Open, and the virtues of Erin Hills have been dissected for a full week so I will be brief. Anytime the U.S. Open comes to a new venue, which is rare, the scrutiny is intense. There are always going to be codgers who demand only the blue bloods with decades of history — Winged Foot, Oakmont, Pebble Beach — host the national championship. Chambers Bay, a public course like Erin Hills, did not hold up well under this scrutiny (maybe due more to the USGA’s conditioning of it than anything).

Erin Hills yielded low scores uncharacteristic of a U.S. Open. That had some of those same codgers scoffing at its U.S. Open worth. But the rain and a lack of wind created those scores, not the course. The best in the world are always going to go low with those conditions, and if the USGA did something to try and mitigate it, it would be accused of tricking it up. The same people mad at the low scores would have called it unfair had it been dry and firm and the winds whipped all four days and the winning number was 3-over. No one is ever happy at the U.S. Open and that is its identity.

This course, however, will be back. It is set up to challenge the modern players and hold a modern major, which requires a massive plot of land. Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee said it was “as close to perfect for the modern game that I have seen. The philosophy was spot on. The setup was spot on. The condition was spot on. And I think pretty much every player has echoed those thoughts.” It wasn’t just a bomber’s paradise, delivering a leaderboard full of players with different styles. We need more of that.

You heard almost no complaints from the players, and their opinions, not some columnist who wants carnage, should carry the day. Spieth, who was never really in contention this week and will make you well-aware of his honest opinion on a topic like this, walked away saying, “I think it's an awesome golf course. I think that's been the consensus from everybody.” It may be a while because there’s a strong roster to choose from, but the national championship will be back in Wisconsin.