U.S. Open 2019: Can Brooks Koepka match Willie Anderson’s historic three-peat?

SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 17: Brooks Koepka of the United States walks off the course with the U.S. Open Championship trophy after winning the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 17, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOUTHAMPTON, NY - JUNE 17: Brooks Koepka of the United States walks off the course with the U.S. Open Championship trophy after winning the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 17, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The U.S. Open has been firmly in the grasp of Brooks Koepka for the past two years. Only one player in history has won it three times in a row. Will history be made again at Pebble Beach?

Several golfers have won the U.S. Open multiple times, and while a smaller handful have won back-to-back U.S. Opens, only one man, Willie Anderson, has won three U.S. Opens in a row. It happened so long ago that most average golf fans don’t know about it. If it had happened in the last 20 or 30 years, everyone would know Anderson. But it happened just after the turn of the last century.

Now, more than 100 years later, Brooks Koepka has a chance to match Anderson’s mark.

Koepka is already a headliner after already winning back-to-back U.S. Opens and back-to-back PGA Championships. With his recent form, it is not out of the question to think that he could match Anderson’s three-peat. Koepka already thinks he’s going to win at least 10 majors. So, he may think he has a shot to tie Anderson.

"“I don’t see why you can’t get to double digits,” he said just before the 2019 PGA. “I think you keep doing what you’re supposed to do, you play good, you peak at the right times.”"

Aaah.  If it were only so easy.

Others have had the chance for a three-peat at the U.S. Open and couldn’t convert. Johnny McDermott won the U.S. Open in 1911 and 1912. Bobby Jones won it in 1929 and 1930. Ralph Guldahl accomplished the back-to-back U.S. Open feat in 1937 and 1938.

The incomparable Ben Hogan won two in a row in 1950 and 1951, after recovering from his horrific accident. More recently, Curtis Strange was the U.S. Open champ in 1988 and 1989.

However, after winning two-in-a-row, the pressure does get to be incredibly intense. From media, from fans, from television, from everyone in golf. But so far, Koepka seems immune to it.

Certainly,  the demands and media attention have changed since Anderson’s victories in 1903-05.  That was barely a decade after golf courses were established in the U.S..

In the late 1880s and early 1890s, golf migrated to the U.S. with the creation of courses like Shinnecock Hills (1891), Chicago Golf Club, (1892), Newport Golf Club (1893) and The Country Club (1893).  Several Canadian courses were already in existence at that time, like Royal Montreal (1873), the first course in North America.

When golf came to the U.S., it brought those who were most expert at the time, the Scots, like Willie Anderson.

Before arriving at Ellis Island, Anderson had a good golf pedigree.  He was born in 1879 in North Berwick, Scotland, became a caddie at age 11 and was apprenticed to a club maker named Alex Aitken.

Anderson was one of many Scottish golf professionals, club makers and golf course builders who emigrated to the U.S. to facilitate the development of the sport. By the time Anderson came to the U.S. with his father and brother, in addition to his other skills, he was also an accomplished golfer. He was only 16 at the time. It was 1896.

Amazingly, all the Anderson men, Tom, Tom Jr., and Willie, were good golfers, so good that all three played in the 1903 U.S. Open which was held at Baltusrol. Willie won it. It was his second U.S. Open victory (the first one being in 1901) and was the first of what would be his historic three-in-a-row.

In those days, golf professionals moved around a lot.  Reports of his employment cover a number of golf courses and clubs in the eastern half of the U.S. including such places as far-flung as La Belle Golf Club in Wisconsin and as well-known as Baltusrol in New Jersey. More about Willie Anderson can be found in Golf’s Forgotten Legends: & Unforgettable Controversies by Jeff Gold.

Anderson died in 1910, just five years after his last U.S. Open victory. The cause was an epileptic seizure. He was 31. He never had a chance to play a PGA because the tournament wasn’t founded until 1916. The Masters was not invented until 1934 and didn’t become a major until Arnold Palmer declared it was one in 1960.

Had Anderson lived longer, there is no way to tell how many additional important tournaments he might have won. In his short career, in addition to four U.S. Opens, he won the Western Open, then considered a major, four times.

Now there have been golfers who have won four times consecutively at both majors and at PGA Tour events, but it’s a very short list.

More from Pro Golf Now

In the major category, Young Tom Morris won The Open Championship from 1868-70 (no event 1871) and 1872.   Walter Hagen won the PGA Championship from 1924-1927. That’s it.

In PGA Tour events, Gene Sarazen won the Miami Open from 1927-1930. Tiger Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational from 2000- 2003 and the Farmers Insurance Open from 2005-2008.

There are only two other golfers who have three-peats in a major, and they are Jamie Anderson, The Open Championship from 1877-1879, and Robert Ferguson, The Open Championship from 1880-1882.  So, Willie Anderson’s three-in-a-row at the U.S. Open stands as an historic achievement.

Surprisingly, there is a laundry list of professionals who have three-peated a PGA Tour event.  Most are golf household names like Jack Nicklaus,  Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Johnny Miller and more.  Tiger Woods three-peated at four events, the Memorial, the AT&T Byron Nelson, WGC-Bridgestone and WGC-Cadillac.

So, if you believe Brooks Koepka when he says that he loves tough tournaments and majors and that he believes he can win 10 majors before he hangs up his soft spikes, at the end of next week, you can say I told you so.

2019 Canadian Open Power Rankings. dark. Next

I don’t disbelieve Koepka. He’s proven he’s a big game champ by taking down four of the last eight historic majors. But since modern tournaments have been played, only one man has three-peated at a U.S. Open. Until someone else does it, Willie Anderson stands alone.