TOMMY FLEETWOOD came within inches of making history as Brooks Koepka impressively held his nerve to become the first player to win back-to-back US Open titles for 29 years.
After admitting they went “too far” with their course set-up for round three, USGA officials applied “appropriate levels” of water to the greens at Shinnecock Hills on Saturday night and Sunday morning, as well as selecting some more favourable pin positions.
England’s Fleetwood took full advantage with a stunning final round of 63, agonisingly missing from eight feet for birdie on the 18th to equal the all-time major record of 62 set by Branden Grace, of South Africa, 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 and his fellow American and Masters champion Patrick Reed sharing the lead on one over with 11 and 10 holes to play respectively as Fleetwood signed his card.
Reed’s bid to claim the second leg of the calendar grand slam faltered with three bogeys in four holes around the turn, Koepka moving two ahead with a birdie on the 10th before scrambling to salvage a bogey on the next after firing his tee shot over the green and his second into a greenside bunker.
Koepka also crucially saved par on the 12th and 14th before striking the killer blow, a superb approach to the par-5 16th setting up a tap-in birdie.
This allowed the 28-year-old the luxury of a bogey on the 18th and he eventually signed for a 68 to finish one over par and just a shot ahead of Fleetwood, with world No 1 Dustin Johnson a stroke further back.
Starting the day six shots off the lead, Fleetwood made the ideal start with four birdies in his first seven holes before dropping a shot on the ninth after missing the green with his approach.
However, he bounced back brilliantly to fire four birdies in succession from the 12th and surprisingly left another birdie attempt short from 12ft on the par-5 16th.
A superb approach to the 18th left Fleetwood with eight feet to shoot 62, but the putt slid across the face of the hole.
Fleetwood, whose fourth place behind Koepka at Erin Hills last year had been his best major finish to date, said: “I never thought I was out of it, I just needed a good start.
“We knew they would have made it a bit softer and the pins were more accessible. Four under through seven and it was game on. It was great to get it going on the back nine.
“I always felt I could get myself back in it, but when you finish you are always going to be just short, but we will see.”
Speaking about the birdie putt, Fleetwood added: “I knew what it was for and I started it on the line I wanted to, but it was a little bit slower than I thought.”
England’s Justin Rose and Swede Henrik Stenson, who started the day one and two shots off the lead respectively, shot 73 and 71 as their bids for a second major title fizzled out.