Koepka eyes historic US Open treble at Pebble Beach

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Brooks Koepka knows history is beckoning at the US Open at Pebble Beach -- and that's just the kind of challenge to get the big-hitting American's juices flowing.

Koepka will arrive at the scenic course overlooking Carmel Bay with a chance to become just the second player to win three straight US Open titles -- and the first to do it since Willie Anderson in 1903, '04 and '05.

"The name has come up quite a bit in the last year," Koepka said of Anderson -- who won four of five US Opens from 1901-05. "I know what I'm chasing and trying to accomplish."

Anyone who thinks the nature of the quest could throw Koepka off his stride hasn't been paying attention as he piled up four major titles in the space of eight starts -- starting with a 2017 US Open triumph at Erin Hills.

He became the first player since Curtis Strange in 1988-89 to win two straight US Opens with his victory at Shinneock Hills last year, and followed that with PGA Championship wins at Bellerive and, last month, at Bethpage Black.

"There's no pressure," Koepka said as he prepared for his US Open tuneup at the Canadian Open. "I know that the odds are against me to win it.

"Every time (in a major), you've got 144 guys or 150 guys, whatever it is.

"There are a lot of people who can win that golf tournament. You've just got to go out and take care of business," he said.

Tiger Woods, who reignited his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles when he took his tally to 15 at the Masters in April then missed the PGA Championship cut, enjoyed a confidence-building top-10 finish at the Memorial as he prepared to return to the scene of one of his most dominant victories.

Woods won the 2000 US Open at Pebble Beach by a record 15 strokes.

"It's impressive, to build that big of a lead and stay there, keep pushing," said Koepka, who saw his six-shot lead dwindle to one at Bethpage before he hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy.

"It's not as easy to extend that to 10 or eight as people might think," Koepka said.

- Mickelson seeks elusive crown -

Among the other contenders in the third major of the year, American Dustin Johnson boasts an outstanding track record at Pebble Beach, where he has won the PGA Tour's National Pro-Am twice.

Johnson held the 54-hole lead in the 2010 US Open at Pebble that ultimately saw Graeme McDowell crowned, and said his runner-up finish at the PGA Championship only boosted his belief that he can add another major title to his 2016 US Open victory.

Phil Mickelson also brings a strong track record at Pebble Beach to his latest bid to capture an elusive Open title and complete a career Grand Slam.

The 48-year-old American notched his fifth National Pro-Am victory in February, but he acknowledges that chasing the longed-for Open title will be a different challenge.

"The difficulty is not the age," said Mickelson, who will turn 49 on the Sunday the Open concludes. "The difficulty is that when you're in your 20s you feel like you have multiple chances. And when you're turning 49, you're like, 'I've got two more chances -- this year and maybe Winged Foot (in 2020) and that's about it.

"With that being the only one in the four that I haven't won, and what it would offer me and how I look at my career, I put more pressure on it," Mickelson said. "That's the difficult thing."