AP Golf Writer
PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) -- Only when he realized where he was going did Brooks Koepka look back at where he had been.
A year ago this week, Koepka was in Scotland to prepare for a Challenge Tour event and his sixth straight week on the road. Now he's going to the Masters for the first time and earned a return trip to the U.S. Open. He locked up a PGA Tour card.
"It just keeps getting better and better," he said Tuesday.
Koepka was coming up the 18th fairway Sunday at Pinehurst No. 2 when he looked at the leaderboard and mentioned to his caddie, Ricky Elliott, that it would be cool to birdie the final hole and tie for fifth. He hit a 52-degree wedge to 6 feet and made birdie -- and a late bogey by Henrik Stenson put him in a tie for fourth.
Only when he was in the locker room did he find out the top four and ties from the U.S. Open are invited to Augusta National.
"It was pretty sweet, to say the least," he said. "Someone said to me, 'How's it feel to be in the Masters?'And I was like, 'Oh, that's funny.' It's awesome, a dream come true. I went there a long time ago and always told my dad that I was going to go back and play but I would never go back and watch. It's a special place."
Koepka also sewed up his PGA Tour card by earning 115 FedEx Cup points. That makes him the equivalent of No. 82 in the FedEx Cup and makes him a lock to get his PGA Tour card.
He reached a point of getting unlimited exemptions in April, but exemptions are hard to find this year. Koepka figured he would have at least three more starts to nail down his card, but to achieve it at the U.S. Open was special because his family was at Pinehurst and he could share the big moment.
Not many players have earned their European Tour and PGA Tour cards in less than a year.
Koepka's win in Scotland last year was his third on the Challenge Tour, giving him a European Tour card.
Next up is a return to Europe. His plan is to play the French Open and Scottish Open and try to get one of three spots available to the top finishers not already exempt. As for next year?
"I'll keep both cards," he said, "and do what the best players in the world do."
CADDIE SERVICES: After their final rounds were over at the U.S. Open, a number of caddies carried a white slip of paper to a USGA office and came back with as much as $550 cash in their pocket.
Just call them human Shotlink machines.
The USGA offered bonus cash to caddies to kept track of shot selections for their players. It was part of the USGA's effort to try to get Pinehurst No. 2 just right for the U.S. Women's Open this week.
"We don't have a lot of data on women's golf," USGA executive director Mike Davis said.
The USGA had equipment in place to measure distances throughout the course. Getting the clubs from caddies was crucial because Davis is trying -- and he's already conceded that he won't be able to get it right -- to have the women play the same kind of shot. The key will be the firmness of the greens.
"It's like Shotlink data, only we're taking it one step further," Davis said.
"We had volunteers at every green, even during the practice rounds. They were charting eight things a ball could do when it hit the greens."
That's a lot of numbers to crunch. And over four days this week, the USGA will see how close it came to getting No. 2 in comparable shape.
STUDY UP: Michelle Wie picked up a few good books to read before playing the U.S. Women's Open -- the yardage books of U.S. Open runner-up Rickie Fowler and Keegan Bradley, who tied for fourth, along with the books their caddies kept.
Wie knows both players from living in South Florida.
"Knowledge is key around here, just knowing where to miss it, where not to miss it," she said. "It's such a unique experience to have the information. You normally go up to a golf course site, the information would probably be from like years ago from when they replayed it or something. But this is pretty fresh information and it's pretty similar conditions to what we'll play it. So hopefully, I think it's going to be very useful and I'm very thankful that they gave it to me for me to use."