Some ma­jor shots by ma­jor cham­pi­ons don’t re­ceive their due

The Fresno Bee - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON

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.

“That hole al­ways has given me a hard time hit­ting the fair­way,” he said. “To hit the cut and get it in play, now I know that’s a shot I 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.

“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.

He was com­ing off a bo­gey on the 14th hole in the third round when Koepka’s drive wound up un­der a tree and he took a one-shot penalty to move it away. From there, he went well left of the green, with a pin on the left side. He got up-and­down and made bo­gey.

“That could have been a dis­as­ter,” Koepka said. “It was a mo­men­tum thing. I don’t want to leak oil com­ing in. I hit such an aw­ful wedge. And to get it up-and-down, I was even im­pressed my­self.”

THERE ARE SIG­NA­TURE SHOTS THAT EV­ERY­ONE RE­MEM­BERS, AND THEN THERE ARE OVER­LOOKED SHOTS.

JULIO CORTEZ AP

Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open Golf Cham­pi­onship in Southamp­ton, N.Y., in June. He says the keys to vic­tory were 9-irons he hit on the 16th and 17th holes of the fi­nal round.

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