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Jun 18

Koepka, Henderson Win Majors

Good Day for North American Champions, Brooks Koepke and Brooke Henderson for PGA and LPGA

A lot of golf took place today, in majors of both tours. They were each characterized by valiant, nervy winners representing Canada and the U.S., but the tournaments could not have ended up in greater contrast. For the men, it was the U.S. Open, of all tournaments. In Erin Hills, Wisconsin, a fairly unknown Brooks Koepka poured on the putter down the back stretch, and stole the trophy away from a lot of big names, few of which were even present on Sunday. Koepka, in his late 20s, hails from Florida, but got his card by going through the European Challenge Tour, then the European Tour. He has won just enough so that I could recognize his name. One win in Japan was the Dunlop Phoenix, and the Race to Dubai makes up his winning total on the European Tour. He won four times on the Challenge Tour, tournaments we don’t immediately recognize, but a win is a win. Those include the Challenge de Catalunya, the Montecchia Golf Open,, the Fred Olsen Challenge de Espana, and the Scottish Hydro Challenge. His big win on the PGA Tour is the Phoenix Waste Management. That being the case, the United States Open rings very, very well on a growing resume.
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My question, though, is…”Where did the PGA’s dream team go? Missing the cut were luminaries such as Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, , Henrik Stenson, Bubba Watson for crying out lout, Dustin Johnson for crying out even louder, and Jason Dufner, a recent winner. Of the victors on tour over the last few weeks, only Rickie Fowler was left as a threat. Koepke, however, was the consistent man in the field. With the widest fairways of the year to stay in, many found the infamous fescue, and apparently couldn’t rally to stay in the game, despite their shiny reputations. To the complete opposite pole, Brooke Henderson and the other women of the LPGA player the Meijer LPGA Classic to Simply Give just a state away in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The LPGA dream team? Did it ever show up, at least a large part of it. Before it was all done, Michelle Wie had challenged, and the Jutanugarns were there as a family. Ko was on the upper board, and the hottest-shooting of them all in recent weeks, Lexi Thompson, came around the bend with a lead. It’s almost not enough to play great golf any more when these people are gathered, because without fail, one of them goes crazy and runs away with it.  As Koepka did, Henderson was undeniable, even by rounds by the runners-up that would have won other tournaments. Lexi had another week that appeared headed for the winner’s circle, but Henderson went on a four-day rampage that saw her card sport a 63, 67, 67, 66. There were some qualifications to the impressiveness of that score, due to some flooding, requiring the tournament to play the 5th as a par 3 instead of a par 5 – but these numbers are dazzling regardless. The Meijer was Henderson’s first victory this year after two last year, as she heads into her early 20s. As patriotically Canadian as it gets, Henderson has also gathered a host of fans in the U.S., and seems to be fulfilling her early promise of becoming a major presence for years to come. With most of the great ones still in contention, Henderson’s victory was, for me, the more interesting. She competed against the cream of the tour, all playing well on the same day. Like Koepka, she just kept ringing up good hole after good hole until everyone else faded or just couldn’t keep up.

So, a fairly unknown swept the big U.S. major for the PGA, and an already well-known took the LPGA tournament away from the best. All in all, not a bad day for North American golf champions

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About the author

G.F. Skipworth

has spent every available moment playing golf or studying the greats since the 60s, in between world tours as a classical musician, Harvard studies in Government or as the author of a dozen novels. Nicklaus and Snead may be the statistical greats, but Skipworth is a life-long devotee of Gary Player, and considers meeting the South African at the Jeld-Wen to be an unforgettable milestone. His driving passion in golf these days is to raise viewer interest in the LPGA.