Major breakthrough: Woodland claims US Open

Gary Woodland of the US celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 2019 US Open on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019

Major breakthrough: Woodland claims US Open

PEBBLE BEACH: Gary Woodland won the 119th US Open on Sunday, capturing his first major title with a 13-under par total to deny two-time defending champion Brook Koepka’s bid for history at Pebble Beach.

Woodland punctuated the victory with a birdie bomb at 18, a final flourish in a display of back-nine fortitude that saw him convert a 54-hole lead for the first time in eight career attempts.

“Once that went in, it all kind of came out of me, it was special to finish it off here at Pebble Beach,” said Woodland, who threw his arms in the air then pumped his fist.

He knew his 13-under total was one better than the 12-under posted by Tiger Woods in his US Open victory at Pebble in 2000.

But 19 years ago, Woods was the only player under par, marching to victory by a massive 15 strokes while Woodland topped a leaderboard that featured 31 players under par.

Most dangerous was Koepka, trying to become just the second player — and the first in more than a century — to win the US Open three straight times.

He started the day four strokes off Woodland’s lead and immediately applied pressure with four birdies in his first five holes.

But his 3-under 68 left him three strokes shy on 10-under 274.

England’s Justin Rose, who started the day one shot behind Woodland, struggled to a 3-over 74 to finish tied for third on 7-under with Americans Xander Schauffele and Chez Reavie and Spain’s Jon Rahm. Woodland, 35, took a two-shot lead with a bold birdie at the par-5 14th, where he powered his second shot to the short rough behind the green and chipped to three feet.

“The idea was to play to win,” Woodland said. “That birdie kind of separated me a little bit.”

He was in trouble at the par-3 17th, where his tee shot found the front right of the putting surface —  on the wrong side of a ridge in the hourglass green.

Woodland opted to pitch up and the shot tracked straight toward the hole, settling two feet away.

“I was just trying to get it over that hump,” Woodland said. “Fortunately I had the same shot earlier in the week, so I already executed it once. It came off beautifully, and I thought it had a chance to go in there — it gave me a little cushion on the last.”

Woodland, who admitted he once had trouble handling the rush of adrenaline in pressure situations, displayed impressive poise on a day when plenty of players were pressing on a receptive Pebble Course.

Koepka’s charge slowed with a bogey at the eighth, and after two birdies and a bogey on the front nine, Woodland turned with a two-shot lead over Koepka and Rose.

Koepka pulled within one with a birdie at the 11th, giving the shot back at 12 when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.

Woodland also bogeyed the par-3 12th, but he salvaged a par after a poor tee shot at 13 to stay in front.

Trailing by two on the tee of the par-5 18th, Koepka found the fairway and ripped his second shot to the short rough behind the green, but his chip left him nine feet for birdie and he settled for a closing par.

“I played great,” said Koepka, who had taken his tally of major titles to four with his two US Open wins and back-to-back PGA Championship victories. “Nothing I could do.

“Gary played a great four days. Cool way to go out on 18, to make that bomb,” Koepka added. “He deserves it, he’s worked hard and I’m happy for him.”


World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in the Kingdom

Updated 19 November 2019

World number five Medvedev topbills first international tennis tournament in the Kingdom

DUBAI: Some of the greatest men’s players on the planet can use the upcoming $3 million Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia as ideal preparation for the Australia Open, says one of its big-name competitors.

World number five Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, is one of six confirmed names heading to the Diriyah Arena in the UNESCO world heritage site for the first international tennis tournament to be staged in the Kingdom, presented by Saudi Aramco on December 12 to and 14.

It has been a breakthrough year for the fan favorite, reaching six consecutive tournament finals, including one at the 2019 US Open and two at Masters 1000 events with a career high ranking of number 4.

Now Medvedev believes the competitive nature of the Diriyah Tennis Cup can provide an ideal platform to build on that success, especially with the first Grand Slam event of 2020, the Australian Open taking place a little more than a month after the Saudi tournament.

Medvedev said: “Saudi will be a big part of my preparation for the new season. Coming to Saudi the heat and conditions will be similar to Australia. It will be a great test for us.

“It’s in our pre-season so we’ll want to get that match time in to prepare for the new season – but the fans should expect us to fight hard like in any tournament. It will be competitive and hopefully they’ll be lots of fans coming to support us there.

“Hopefully I can play some great tennis, help the country raise awareness of the sport and inspire people to play. Looking at the players confirmed it’s a really great field.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about Saudi Arabia. I’m excited to promote tennis there especially as it’s the first tournament.

The tournament is part of the Diriyah Season, an epic month of showcase sports events being hosted by the GSA. 

The Diriyah Tennis Cup showdown has confirmed six leading players to date for the inaugural tournament. As well as Medvedev this includes three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland.

World number 12, Fabio Fogini, who was the first Italian to win an ATP Masters 1000 title this year in Monte Carlo and highly-rated David Goffin (Belgium), the former world number 7 will also present in Diriyah.

The big-serving American John Isner, with over 10,000 aces on tour, and five-time ATP champion Lucas Pouille of France, an Australian Open semi-finalist this year complete the current line-up. Officials will name the final two players in the coming weeks.

Medvedev will go into tournament with confidence after a great year, in the past week missed out on closing rounds of the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals which also included another epic showdown with World Number One, Rafael Nadal in London.

He said: “It’s been a great year for me, especially the second half. The highlights were in Washington and then finishing in Shanghai and winning that title. With six titles and two of them Masters titles, it wasn’t something I expected if I’m honest with you.

The 23-year-old Russian also gave some insight into what it has taken to reach the top echelon of the men’s game, as he closes in on ‘The Big Three’; namely Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. 

“To be successful in tennis you need to fight hard and play with passion. You need to fight hard on every single point. Look back on the times it doesn’t go well and always try to improve and always get better. Self-reflection is important. That might sound a bit tough for the kids, but that’s what it takes to break through."

Tickets are now available at www.diriyahseason.sa with nine different ticket categories available to suit all budgets – the perfect event for groups of friends and families.

The Diriyah Tennis Cup is taking place at the 15,000-seater Diriyah Arena being purpose built at the ancient site of the Kingdom’s first capital, known as the home of kings and heroes. The tournament will happen just a week after the same venue plays host to the Clash On The Dunes, the world heavyweight title fight between Andy Ruiz Jr and Anthony Joshua OBE.