Gary Woodland celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 2019 U.S. Open on June 16, 2019 in Pebble Beach, Calif.
For Gary Woodland, the phrase “better late than never” certainly applies.
The 35-year-old from Topeka, Kansas, became the latest American to win the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, California, on Sunday, holding off a charge by two-time winner Brooks Koepka and his partner in the final pairing, Justin Rose, for his first major championship.
Woodland finished 13-under for the tournament and beat second-place finisher Koepka by three strokes, ending his quest to become the first American and just the second player ever to win three consecutive U.S. Open titles. Rose was among four players tied for third at 7-under.
Woodland’s most recent win was at the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open, just his third victory ever on the PGA Tour and his only one since 2013.
The day started out as a two-man race between Woodland at minus-11 and Rose one behind. Koepka was in a group of three at minus-7.
Rose, looking for his second major title and first since the 2013 U.S. Open, birdied the first hole to tie Woodland as Koepka began to close in on them both.
Woodland opened up a two-stroke lead, moving to 13-under on the front nine but found trouble on the back. Through 62 holes he’d bogeyed just twice, but a bogey on nine was followed by another on 12 and both Rose and Koepka closed within one.
On the 14th hole, however, Woodland hit a gutsy second shot that traveled 250 yards, then sank a three-foot putt for birdie to take a two-stroke lead over Koepka and a four-stroke lead over Rose.
Koepka was still at 10-under, trailing Woodland by two, and missed a nearly nine-foot putt for birdie on the 18th hole to finish with a final round score of 68. Woodland’s chip shot on the 17th hole gave him a tap-in for par.
Before Sunday, Woodland was 0-for-7 with 54-hole leads on the PGA Tour.