US Open winner Koepka backs Fleetwood for major glory

Brooks Koepka has backed Tommy Fleetwood to follow in his footsteps as a major champion after denying the Englishman a maiden victory at Shinnecock Hills.

And few would bet against that happening as soon as next month’s Open Championship at Carnoustie, where Fleetwood carded the course record of 63 during last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.

Fleetwood also shot a stunning 63 in Sunday’s final round of the 118th US Open, agonisingly missing from eight feet for birdie on the 18th to equal the all-time major record of 62 set by Branden Grace in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

The 27-year-old’s score still matched the lowest in US Open history and set a testing clubhouse target on two over par, with Koepka the only player able to beat it – by a single shot – thanks to a nerveless 68.

“A 63 in a US Open is always pretty impressive. Seven under is incredible,” Koepka said. “Hats off to him. That’s some golf.

“He seems to bring it every time it’s a US Open. Last year, playing with him in the final round, it was pretty impressive. He played very well. He’s a great player.

“I’ve known him for maybe five years now and he’s an incredible player. He’ll definitely be holding some major championships here soon.”

Fleetwood began the final day six shots off the lead and finished his round more than two and a half hours before the winner, although the lengthy wait was made more bearable in the company of his baby son Frankie and wife Clare.

“I always felt I was one [shot] shy but Brooks kept giving me a little bit of hope until he stabbed me in the stomach a little bit by holing another putt,” Fleetwood said.

“I never really got massively excited. He holed his [birdie] putt on 16 and I just thought I better warm up just in case, but I thought he would cruise the 18th.

“The shot you would look at is the putt at the last obviously, but I shot seven under and tied the lowest round in US Open history. It’s difficult to look at just one shot but I have beaten everybody but one player in one of the biggest events in the world.

“I think I can compete in any company. I’d like to do it more. The majors and big events eventually bring the best players to the top, so if I play well or not I always find playing the big events very motivating because it shows you where the game is at.

“They are the ultimate tests of golf and it shows you where you are at and what you need to improve. I have plenty of improving to do.

“After this finish the next really big one people will look at is The Open and I have put my name in the frame again. Hopefully that will be another good week. Once it gets to next week this week is gone, but The Open is a week I will be really looking forward to.”

Fleetwood will have no time to rest on his laurels as he contests the BMW International this week and then defends his French Open title, but regular caddie Ian Finnis will not be in Germany as his wife is expecting their second child.

Fleetwood’s father Pete will be on his bag at Gut Larchenhof Golf Club in Pulheim.

- Press Association

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