ERIN, WIS. – Rickie Fowler and Justin Thomas shared a house during the U.S. Open, and at times it looked as if that house might produce a trophy.
Fowler led after one round, and Thomas shot a 63 Saturday. Both are well-regarded players seeking their first major.
They’re still searching. Sunday, on a course that yielded plenty of birdies, Fowler and Thomas produced three combined, Fowler’s second coming on the 18th hole after he had eliminated himself from competition for the championship at Erin Hills.
Fowler shot a 72 to finish tied for fifth. He has finished in the top 10 at seven majors and finished 11th at the Masters in April.
“You have to measure success in different ways,” Fowler said. “Not just by winning. Just because that doesn’t happen a lot. I think Tiger [Woods] had the best winning percentage at 30 percent, and you’re lucky to even sniff close to 10.
“You just have to say, hey, it’s a major. We played well this week.”
Thomas shot a 75 — 12 shots worse than he did Saturday — and finished tied for ninth.
“Anytime you don’t win, it stings,” Thomas said. “But if 12 or 13 under had won, it would have hurt really bad. Knowing that I would have had to shoot 5 under just to get into the playoff, that’s really, really good golfing out here today [by winner Brooks Koepka].”
It was a strange major. Woods and Phil Mickelson didn’t play. The three highest-ranked players in the world, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, did not make the cut.
The top 20 players on the final leaderboard had produced zero major championships before Koepka won on Sunday.
“It’s a lot of new blood, a lot of young guys,” Fowler said. “Some of the younger crew is coming in. I’m not saying the older guys are out by any means, but I think we’re making our presence a little bit more known.”
Koepka is 27. Thomas is 24. Fowler is 28.
“I mean, I feel like golf-wise I’m playing at the highest level,” Fowler said. “If you look at the negatives too much, I mean, you’re going to be stuck doing that the whole time.”
Any negative thoughts were eased by Koepka’s dominance. Fowler and Thomas can rightly say that they could have played much better on Sunday without winning.
Fowler would have had to shoot a 66 and Thomas a 67 to force a playoff.
“I’d never teed off that late before, so that was different,” Thomas said. “Teeing off at almost 3 o’clock Central Time is just bizarre for me, because I wake up pretty early.”
Late tee times at majors, though, should be a goal, not an excuse.