News & Opinion

Koepka, Mickelson and Woods all tote massive storylines into next week’s U.S. Open

Brooks Koepka, with caddie Ricky Elliott, finds that the PGA Championship at Bethpage has been little more than a walk in the park so far.

Which of the three would be the most significant winner?

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Jeff Rude are co-hosts of a weekly podcast, Hawk & Rude, in which they discuss and debate the hottest issues in golf. They also share their takes in this weekly installment.

Brooks Koepka, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods all tote massive storylines into next week’s U.S. Open. Which of the three would be the most significant winner?

John Hawkins Headshot
John Hawkins

Hawk’s take: A Mickelson victory would at least rival Woods’ triumph at the Masters as the year’s biggest golf story. We’re talking about a pair of warm-and-fuzzy retribution jobs from the game’s biggest superstars, with a teaspoon of history mixed in, and it’s a recipe that’s hard to beat. For Lefty to finally win a U.S. Open on his birthday – a candle shy of 50, no less – provides additional luster. He’d also walk away with a career Grand Slam, no small feat, particularly when you consider that he didn’t claim his first major until age 34.

A Koepka three-peat at Pebble Beach would pack the heartiest historical punch, but there’s more to making news than editing a line in the USGA record book. Public reaction counts for something. The reverb off a Mickelson title after all those second-place finishes, a full generation of heartbreak smothered by a guy who would become the oldest man ever to win a major…. Are you kidding me?

Never mind a couple of violins. You’d need the entire Boston Philharmonic to handle the musical score for that tearjerker.

Jeff Rude Headshot
Jeff Rude

Rude’s take: When picking one, we run the risk of discounting the potential feats of the others, not ideal since they are all remarkable. But if we must, a third consecutive U.S. Open victory would make Koepka the most significant winner because no one in the modern era has done so.

(Yes, historians will dig up Willie Anderson, who hit the trifecta in 1903-05 – three years before Henry Ford’s Model T became one of the first cars accessible to the masses.)

Now, the Koepka triple wouldn’t be as sexy to the Great Unwashed as the victories of Woods and Mickelson, mainly because golf fans have been attached to those two since the early 1990s. But it’s the only achievement that would be unprecedented.

Woods gets my 1B label because he would bag a 16th major, accelerating him on the Jack track, and have a chance at three big bottle caps in a year. But he wouldn’t be the first to do either.

A Mickelson victory would be historic and the most heartwarming. It would complete his career Slam after six runner-up finishes at the Open and come on Father’s Day and his 49th birthday. He would become the oldest major champion and beat fellow three-leg stars Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth in joining the five men who own all four.