Ma­jor cham­pi­ons re­mem­ber big shots

The Detroit News - - SPORTS - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

The Mas­ters

For as much magic the Mas­ters de­liv­ers, there wasn’t any­thing overly dra­matic about Patrick Reed’s 71 for a one-shot vic­tory.

He made two birdies on the back nine, and the one that stands out was his 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 12th that al­lowed him to seize con­trol.

“It was a soft 9-iron,” he said. “When I made that putt is when I thought I could play par com­ing in and I can win the tour­na­ment.”

The shot that stands out to him was on Thurs­day, a cut drive through the chute of trees to the fair­way. Never mind that he put his ap­proach into the bunker and had to scram­ble to save par for a 69, leav­ing him three shots be­hind.

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

“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.”

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.

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.

Sam Green­wood/Getty Images

Matt Kuchar was the leader head­ing into the fi­nal round of the Sony Open in Hon­olulu on Sun­day.

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