Johnson, who is looking to become only the second player after Tiger Woods to win the title as world number one, carded a second round of 67 to set a daunting clubhouse target of four under par.
In 2014 the Open was played on a Pinehurst No. 2 course that had undergone a peculiar renovation in which most of the rough was removed and a "crop scientist" replanted indigenous growth. He was a stroke off the lead when he completed play more than two hours before the final pairing.
By the middle of Saturday afternoon the course was pushed to the very edge, and many would suggest, over the edge. He steadied himself and played the next nine in even par but lost his chance at being in first place by himself with a 3-putt bogey at 18.
Koepka, who shot a 72 on Saturday after carding a 66 on Friday, will tee off at 2:13 p.m. ET; he is paired with Dustin Johnson. USGA found a way to make us look like fools on the golf course.
Playing in the last group, Johnson shot 77, with a bogey on the last hole that cost him sole possession of the lead. He joins Ben Hogan (1950-51) and Curtis Strange (1988-89) as the only golfers in the last 68 years to accomplish that feat.
In the end the defender made a couple of back nine birdies to offset two bogeys. Rickie Fowler shot 65 in the last round on Sunday.
"Yeah, I think the first day I hit balls, everything came out exactly the way it should have", he said. "When it's that big an advantage to playing in the morning versus the afternoon, I think it takes away from the work that the guys have done the first two days". He couldn't quite close in the final holes, missing too many long birdies, and finished at +4 for the week. It's as good as it gets. At that time, I just didn't feel like going back and forth and hitting the same shot over.
By the time he was interviewed by Fox's unusual (an apt pairing of interviewer and interviewee) on the 18th green, where he had made a meaningless bogey to win, Koepka had done what all U.S. Open champions must: He had exerted his considerable will and flexed his underrated putting prowess in the face of everything the course, the USGA and Mother Nature could throw at him.
The 147th Open Championship will take place July 19-22 at Carnoustie Championship Golf Course in Angus, Scotland.
Heading into the final round of the U.S. Open, the question isn't just who will win, but will anyone finish at even par for the tournament.
Players didn't need to be told that. The first: Johnny Miller, who in 1973 at Oakmont was also six back of the leader when he teed off on Sunday.
"Nobody enjoys that", Knox said. "It felt like I didn't miss three months".
"When you finish you always feel like you're going to be a bit short, but we'll see", added Fleetwood, a victor of four tournaments on the European Tour and in his first season as a PGA Tour member.