ERIN, Wis. -- Brooks Koepka traveled around the world to find his game. He found stardom right at home as the U.S. Open champion.
Koepka broke away from a tight pack with three straight birdies on the back nine Sunday at Erin Hills and closed with a 5-under 67 to win the U.S. Open for his first major championship. Koepka takes home $2.16 million, the largest single-day earnings in golf.
A par on the final hole tied Rory McIlroy's record score to par at 16 under for a four-shot victory.
Not even the wind could stop the onslaught of low scores at Erin Hills.
And nothing could stop Koepka.
"What I've done this week is amazing," Koepka.
Tied for the lead with six holes to play, Koepka made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole. As Brian Harman began to fade, Koepka poured it on with birdies over the next three holes, lightly pumping his fist after each one.
His reaction was subdued, just like that of his close friend and last year's U.S. Open champion, Dustin Johnson. They spend a lot of time together on the course, in the gym and at home, so Koepka has seen that U.S. Open trophy plenty at Johnson's house in South Florida.
"That's probably the most emotion I've ever shown coming down the stretch," Koepka said. "It feels amazing to get my name on this trophy with so many other great names. It's truly an honor."
And now he gets to keep it for a year -- with his name on it.
It capped quite a journey for the 27-year-old Floridian. Without a card on any tour when he got out of Florida State, Koepka filled his passport on the Challenge Tour with stamps from Kazakhstan to Kenya, Scotland and Spain, India and the Madeira Island.
One night in Scotland, he called his agent and wanted to come home, even though he was leading the tournament. He had been on the road for so long, in so many different countries, and was feeling lonely. He won the next day to graduate to the European Tour. The next year, he earned a spot in the U.S. Open through a qualifier in England, and his tie for fourth at Pinehurst No. 2 helped him earn a card on the PGA Tour.
Koepka took it from there -- a victory in Turkey against a strong field, his first PGA Tour victory in the Phoenix Open, his first Ryder Cup and now a major championship.
"To go over there, I think it helped me grow up a little bit and really figure out that, hey, play golf, get it done, and then you can really take this somewhere," he said.
Harman's chances ended with two straight bogeys, and a bogey on the par-5 18th hole gave him a 72 and a tie for second with Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, who closed with a 66. Matsuyama didn't need to stick around very long. Koepka simply couldn't miss.
Koepka, who finished at 16-under 272, became the seventh straight first-time winner of a major championship, and it was the first time since 1998-2000 that Americans won their national championship three straight years.
Tommy Fleetwood, who played alongside Koepka and closed with a 72 to finish fourth, played the Challenge Tour a year before Koepka arrived.
"It gives you a good grounding," Fleetwood said. "Obviously, Brooks dealt with it amazingly. He came and kicked everyone's [behind] over there, didn't he? But he's proven for a long time how good he is. Now he's done it in a major."
It was only fitting that Koepka left Erin Hills with yet another record matched or broken.
McIlroy finished at 16-under 268 when he won on rain-softened Congressional in the 2011 U.S. Open. But the low scoring went much deeper than that. Only six players had ever reached double digits under par in the previous 116 times at the U.S. Open. McIlroy and Tiger Woods (12 under at Pebble Beach in 2000) had been the only players to finish there.
This week alone, nine players reached at least 10 under and seven finished there.
Xander Schauffele, a rookie on the PGA Tour playing in his first U.S. Open, birdied his last hole for a 69 to tie for fifth at 10-under 268 along with Bill Haas (69) and Rickie Fowler (72), who was poised at yet another major to win only to fall back. Fowler started one shot out of the lead at the Masters this year and shot 76. He was only two behind when he made the turn, but bogeys on the 12th and 15th holes -- and no birdies until No. 18 -- ended his hopes.
Justin Thomas, coming off a 9-under 63 that matched the major championship scoring record and was the first 9-under round at a U.S. Open, went out in 39 and closed with a 75 to tie for ninth.
The week ended with 31 players under par, breaking the U.S. Open record of 28 players at Medinah in 1990. There were 133 subpar rounds, nine more than the previous record in that 1990 U.S. Open.
Erin Hills, an 11-year-old course shaped out of Wisconsin pastureland, didn't put up much of a fight without much wind. The strongest gusts were Sunday morning, and it tapered to a strong breeze by the afternoon.
No one was more solid from start to finish than Koepka. He opened with a pair of tap-in birdies and putted for birdie on every hole but the par-3 13th. Of all his birdies, that 8-foot par putt might have been as big as any.
"I needed something to go in and see that to build momentum off it, and just carried that over," Koepka said.