SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — Brooks Koepka won his second consecutive U.S. Open on Sunday, but he never doubted that a day like this would come. In fact, he's a little behind his original schedule.
His father, Bob, was driving him home from his first match in his first year on the varsity high school team. Brooks was already the No. 2 player. He shot 41, and he was still a little guy so he had to hit driver on all nine holes, but he won. That convinced him that he was the next Tiger Woods.
He told his dad, "I'm gonna drop out of school in about four years and turn pro."
Faced with the prospect of having a 16-year-old touring professional, Bob Koepka got so mad he had to pull over.
"Let me tell you something, son," he said. "You're gonna finish high school. You're gonna finish college. And maybe after that, if you're good enough, then you can turn pro."
Bob was right.
Brooks was 12 years old.
Now he's 28, and he's the first player to win back-to-back Opens since Curtis Strange did it in 1988 and 1989. He crafted a 2-under 68 and finished the tournament at 1 over, one shot better than Tommy Fleetwood, who tied a U.S. Open record with a 7-under 63 and posted a 2 over for the tournament about 90 minutes after Koepka took the course.
There, Koepka outlasted his best friend on the PGA Tour, Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 golfer in the world and his playing partner in the second-to-last pairing Sunday. After 36 holes Johnson led the field by 4 strokes, at 4 under, but his putter abandoned him on the weekend and he finished third at 3 over.
Last year, Bob and his wife, Sherry, couldn't find suitable housing for the week near Erin Hills Golf Course, which is 40 miles northwest of Milwaukee, Wis. They missed Brooks' first win at a major, and Father's Day as well.
"Two years in a row, I haven't gotten him anything," Brooks joked Sunday night. That's not exactly true, of course.
On Father's Day last year, Bob got to be the dad of the U.S. Open Champion for a whole year. On Father's Day this year, Brooks gave him the same thing. It's a much bigger gift this time. Only six other golfers have repeated as U.S. Open champions.
Last year from his home in Florida, Bob watched Brooks, one of the tour's power players, demolish Erin Hills. This year, he watched from beside the fairways and greens at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, a venerated track, a monstrous test of golf, and a validation of Koepka's talent.
"It shows that he's got complete game," Bob said.
It also shows that Johnson isn't the only athletic masher with deft touch and ball control and imagination. They're great friends. They live close to each other in Florida, where they paddleboard and fish together and they work out together all the time. In fact, they met at the gym Sunday morning before they played together, talking weights and pin placements.
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Once at the course, though, they barely exchanged a word. Brooks, who entered the week ranked ninth, had as many major wins as Johnson, who won the 2016 U.S. Open. The world stage is small, and, until Sunday, Johnson had it pretty much all to himself. Pals or not, Koepka wants no part of DJ's shadow.
"He knows how to put that little chip on his shoulder," Bob said.
"I always feel like I'm overlooked," Brooks agreed.
The confidence he had as a 12-year-old has fortified him as he waited to break through. He made the Wellington Christian School varsity team as a sixth grader, which is impressive, but Wellington was a small K-12 institution before it became a preschool in 2014. Bob said he never won a Florida Junior event as a kid. He played at Florida State, and that's where things began to change.
He didn't out-drive his father until his senior year in high school, and then only by about 15 yards. When Brooks came back for Christmas break, he and Bob went to their home course, Sherbrooke Golf and Country Club in Lake Worth, Fla., and Bob couldn't believe his eyes. Brooks had been put on a stretching routine. He blasted his first drive 45 yards beyond Bob's.
"I was kind of shocked. I'd never seen that before," Bob said.
Brooks was a three-time all American at Florida State and broke into professional golf in Europe. He has won 10 times around the world but only three times on the PGA Tour: the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open and the two U.S. Opens. Sunday was his sixth top-10 finish in his last 10 starts at majors.
"He plays well in majors," Bob said. "He steps up at the big moments."
He and his wife can see it coming.
Last year, as Brooks prepared to hit his tee shot and begin his final round at Erin Hills, the television broadcast zoomed in on his face. Sherry turned to Bob and said, "There's that look. He's got it today."
Bob saw the same thing when Brooks left the putting green Sunday afternoon, 3 over for the tournament, trailing the four leaders by a stroke.
"He had those steely eyes," said Bob, who isn't as prescient with other athletes as he is with his son.
The 3-year-old thoroughbred Justify was trying to complete its Triple Crown quest last Saturday at the Belmont Stakes. Sherry said to Bob last week, "If we go up, why don't we go up early? Maybe we can see history."
They did. Bob had taken Brooks in the golf pool at their new club, Lost City Golf Club in Atlantis, Fla., but he thought the mile-and-a-half at Belmont was too long for Justify, who won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, both at shorter distances. Bob put his money on Brovazo and Vino Rosso.
But Sherry knew what she was talking about. They saw history.