PEBBLE BEACH – Brooks Koepka knew the odds were stacked against him in his hunt for a third straight US Open title.
After all, it had been 114 years since Scottish immigrant Willie Anderson became the first – and still only – man to hoist the trophy for three straight years, doing so in 1903, ’04 and ’05.
Koepka gave it a characteristic try Sunday, bursting out of the gate with four birdies in five holes in pursuit of Gary Woodland.
But it was Woodland, a 35-year-old from Topeka, Kansas, celebrating his first major title on Sunday night rather than Koepka, also winner of a second straight PGA Championship last month, celebrating a fifth.
"It doesn’t sting," said Koepka, who finished tied for second at the Masters in April as well. "I played great. Nothing I could do. I gave it my all.
"I give it my all every time and sometimes, like this week – it happened at Augusta – it’s not meant to be. I played great. I hit every shot that I wanted to. And sometimes no matter how good your good is, it isn’t there."
After opening with a birdie, Koepka came up with a big par save at the second, where he was far right off the tee and hit his second shot into the dense rough short of the green.
He birdied the next three to pull within one shot of the lead.
"I thought, ‘Yeah, we’ve got a ball game now,’" Koepka said.
But Koepka would never manage to get the lead, even after he stuck his approach at 11 only 10 feet from the pin and made birdie.
He bogeyed 12, and missed the fairway at the next three, saving par but needing to do more to catch Woodland.
He gave it a shot at the par-five 18th, ripping his second shot to the short rough behind the green in his hunt for an eagle.
Once again he settled for par, his muffed chip leaving him a nine-foot birdie putt that slid by.
Koepka became the fourth player in US Open history to break 70 in all four rounds, with a final scoreline of 69-69-68-68.
But Woodland was the fifth, and Koepka could only offer his congratulations.
"It was awesome to come this close to going three in a row," Koepka said. "It’s incredible.
"I didn’t really think about it until I was done on 18 and realized how close I actually was to kind of, I guess, not making history, but kind of tying it, I guess you could say. But it’s a cool feeling to know. Just wasn’t meant to be this week."