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June 28, 2017

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Koepka wins first major after pulling away at US Open

American golfer Brooks Koepka won his first career major on Sunday at the U.S. Open with a record-tying 16-under at Erin Hills.

The big-driving 27-year-old pulled away from the field with a final round 67, five strokes under at the par-72 course in Erin, Wisconsin.

The result meant he tied Rory McIlroy's 16-under in 2011 for lowest score to par in U.S. Open history.

The 11-year-old Erin Hills course in rolling Midwestern farm country 55 kilometres north-west of Milwaukee, made its PGA Tour debut with six of the world's top 10 missing the cut, including the top three: defending champion Dustin Johnson of the United States, Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy and Australian Jason Day.

The long, nearly treeless course has wide fairways, but shin-high rough punished wayward shots.

Rain on Wednesday and overnight Friday kept the greens slow, and subdued winds for the first three days allowed much of the field to score below par.

In a fourth round that saw challenging winds, Koepka managed three birdies on the front nine and bogeyed the 10th hole before seizing control with a run of three straight birdies starting on the 14th.

He admitted watching the leaderboard as his lead widened.

"It's kind of hard to miss - there's one on every hole, so I knew where I stood," Koepka told broadcaster Fox Sports. "I was trying to get it as low as I could. It was something I thought was important, just to stay focussed and keep the pedal down."

Ranked 22nd in the world, Koepka shot 2-under or better in every round of his fifth US Open. He had three previous top-five finishes in major tournaments.

"I did love it. It was kind of bombs away," Koepka said. "You could hit it far, and the fairways are generous enough where you could still miss it and hit the fairways. That was a big plus for me."

Fiftieth-ranked Brian Harman of the United States, who was the 54-hole leader, duelled with Koepka into the back nine before finishing 12-under, tied for second place with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, ranked fourth in the world.

"Brooks played great, he went out and won it, so I gave it my best, just came up a little short," Harmon said.

Englishman Tommy Fleetwood was alone in fourth, five strokes off Koepka's pace.

Americans Bill Haas, first-round leader Rickie Fowler and PGA rookie Xander Schauffele were tied for fifth place at 10-under.

Charley Hoffman of the US was 9-under, while countrymen Trey Mullinax, Brandt Snedeker and Justin Thomas shared ninth place, eight strokes behind Koepka.

Thomas was one stroke off the pace after 54 holes, firing a U.S. Open record 9-under round on Saturday, capped by an eagle on the 18th hole. But three bogeys in five holes to start the fourth round dropped him out of contention, and he finished with 75 on Sunday, 12 shots worse than his historic third round.

JB Holmes was 7-under for sole possession of 12th place.

Spaniard Sergio Garcia, playing in a major tournament for the first time since winning the Masters in April at Augusta National, was the highest-finished major winner at Erin Hills, shooting 4-under for a share of 21st place.

Fifth-ranked American Jordan Spieth, the 2015 US Open winner, finished 1-over.

First-time major winners have now won the last seven major tournaments, starting with Australian Jason Day's breakthrough at the PGA Championship, back in August of 2015.

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