Ma­jor shots by ma­jor cham­pi­ons of­ten over­looked

Stamford Advocate - - Sports -

HONOLULU — Brooks Koepka still smiles at the mem­ory of the 9-irons he hit in the fi­nal round of his sec­ond straight U.S. Open vic­tory.

Yes, that’s plu­ral. They were on con­sec­u­tive holes on the back nine at Shin­necock Hills.

The one that led to birdie was mem­o­rable. The one that led to par was “by far the best shot.”

It’s like that at ev­ery ma­jor cham­pi­onship. There are sig­na­ture shots that ev­ery­one re­mem­bers, the one that gets shown dur­ing brief re­caps. And there is al­ways one shot that is mem­o­rable to the player that might not get its due be­cause it doesn’t seem all that sig­nif­i­cant at the time. could hit all week.”

And he did on Sun­day, lead­ing to his two-putt par and one-shot win.

U.S. OPEN

Koepka was 1-over par with no room for er­ror in the fi­nal round be­cause Tommy Fleet­wood had posted his 63 and was in at 2-over 282. The de­fend­ing champ al­ready had made a pair of 8-foot par saves and re­ally had one birdie chance left. It was the par-5 16th, and no bar­gain with a back pin. The dis­tance sug­gested pitch­ing wedge. Koepka had other ideas.

Koepka de­cided to flight a 9-iron low, and it checked up about 3 feet past the hole for a birdie and a two-shot lead.

“It was nice to have that ex­tra cush­ion,” he said.

He felt he needed it based on the pin po­si­tion at the par-3 17th, which he de­scribed as a land­ing area 12 feet wide and 12 feet deep. He thought about an 8-iron un­til he fac­tored in the adren­a­line.

“I don’t think peo­ple re­al­ize how hard it was to hold that green,” he said. “And that’s com­ing in with a 9-iron. He wound up itch­ing it 6 feet over the bunker and kept it on. I should have hit 8, but I was a lit­tle juiced.”

When he do­nates a club to the USGA, it likely will be a 9-iron.

“The 16th was more mem­o­rable for ev­ery­body else,” he said. “But 17 was by far the best shot.”

BRI­TISH OPEN

No one was stead­ier than Francesco Moli­nari on a wild fi­nal day at Carnoustie in the Bri­tish Open. He didn’t make a bo­gey over the last 37 holes. And while there was noth­ing overly spec­tac­u­lar, his bril­liance was in be­ing in the right po­si­tion.

The shot that clinched Italy’s first ma­jor was a lob wedge over the Barry Burn to 5 feet for a birdie and a two-shot vic­tory.

“I thought par would give me a chance. If I could get it close and hole the putt, it would be more likely,” he said of win­ning. “Ac­tu­ally, the lie wasn’t great. It was sit­ting down a lit­tle bit. I was try­ing to make good con­tact and a bit of luck that it re­leased the way it needed to.”

But it was the par on the 17th that he thought won him the tour­na­ment.

“A 2-iron straight into the wind is a lot harder than a lob wedge,” Moli­nari said.

Mak­ing it even harder was the mem­ory of a dou­ble bo­gey on the 17th hole in the sec­ond round from a sim­i­lar spot, a shot that nar­rowly missed the green and plugged in the bunker. He had about 217 yards for his sec­ond shot in the fi­nal round.

PGA CHAM­PI­ONSHIP

Not only was Koepka’s tee shot on the par-4 16th at Bel­lerive the best shot at the PGA Cham­pi­onship, it ar­guably was the sig­na­ture shot of all the ma­jors last year. He hit a 4-iron from 248 yards — “a laser of a shot,” he called it — to about 7 feet below the hole for a birdie and the cush­ion he needed to win his sec­ond ma­jor of the year.

“Prob­a­bly one of the best shots I’ve ever hit un­der pres­sure,” Koepka said.

The back nine pro­duced an­other shot he con­sid­ered im­por­tant. It was on Satur­day, right about the time Koepka was start­ing to lose ground on a course that pro­duced the low­est scor­ing ever in a ma­jor.

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