HONOLULU (AP) – Brooks Koepka still smiles at the memory of the 9 irons he hit in the last round of his second consecutive US Open victory.
Yes, that is plural. They were on nine consecutive holes in the back of Shinnecock Hills.
The one who led to Birdie was memorable. The one who led to par was "by far the best photo."
That's how it is at every major championship. There are distinctive photos that everyone remembers, the one that is shown during short repetitions. And there is always a recording that is memorable for the player and that might not be on time, because it does not seem that important at the time.
For so much magic from the Masters, there was nothing overly dramatic about Patrick Reed's 71 for a one-off victory. He made two birdies on the first nine, and the one who stands out was his 20-foot birdie-putt on the par-3 12th, allowing him to take control.
FILE – In this June 17, 2018, the Brooks Koepka photo will raise the Golf Champion Trophy after winning the US Open Golf Championship in Southampton, NY. Koepka says that the key to victory was 9-irons that he faced on the 16th and 17th hole of the last round. (AP Photo / Julio Cortez, file)
"It was a soft 9-iron," he said. "When I made that putt was when I thought I could play par that came in and I could win the tournament."
The shot that strikes him was on Thursday, a cut through the parachute of trees to the fairway. Just let him put his approach in the bunker and clambered to save a 69, leaving him three shots.
"That hole has always given me a hard time to hit the fairway," he said. "To hit the cut and get him into the game, I now know that this is a chance I could hit the whole week."
And he did so on Sunday, leading to his two-piece par and one-shot victory.
Kupka was 1-over par, with no room for mistakes in the final round because Tommy Fleetwood had posted his 63 and was 2-over 282. The defending champion had already made a 8-par parachute and really had a bird chance. It was the par-5 16th and no bargain with a rear pin. The distance indicated pitching wedge. Koepka had other ideas.
Kupka decided to fly a 9-iron layer, and it controlled about 3 meters past the hole for a birdie and a lead of two shots.
"It was nice to have that extra pillow," he said.
He felt he needed it on the basis of the pin position on the par-3 17th, which he described as a landing area of 12 feet wide and 12 feet deep. He thought of an 8-iron until he took into account the adrenaline.
"I do not think people realize how difficult it was to hold that green," he said. "And that comes with a 9-iron, he left it 6 feet over the bunker tickle and held it, I should have hit eight, but I was a little peppery."
When he donates a club to the USGA, it is probably a 9-iron.
"The 16th was more memorable for everyone," he said. "But 17 was by far the best shot."
Nobody was more stable than Francesco Molinari on a wild final day at Carnoustie in the British Open. He did not make a fool about the last 37 holes. And although there was nothing overly spectacular, his genius was in the right position.
The shot that won Italy's first major was a lob wedge over the Barry Burn to 5 feet for a birdie and a victory over two shots.
"I thought par would give me a chance. If I could get it close to the ground and get the well, it would be more likely," he said about winning. "Actually, the lie was not great, it sat down a bit, I tried to make good contact and a little bit of luck that it was released as it should."
But it was the par on the 17th that he thought he had won the tournament.
"A 2-iron straight in the wind is a lot harder than a lobwig," said Molinari.
Making it even more difficult was the memory of a double bogey at the 17th hole in the second round of a comparable spot, a shot that just missed the green and was filling the bunker. He had about 217 yards for his second shot in the final round.
"It just came out beautifully," he said. "Those last two holes, every shot is very important."
Not only was Koepka's tee-shot on the par-4 16th on Bellerive the best shot in the PGA Championship, it was perhaps the distinctive shot of all the majors last year. He hit a 248-meter 4-iron – "a laser of a shot," he called it – about 7 feet below the birdie hole and the cushion he needed to win his second big of the year.
"Probably one of the best photos I've ever made under pressure," Koepka said.
The back nine produced another shot that he considered important. It was on Saturday, right around the time that Koepka started losing ground on a job that delivered the lowest scores ever in a major.
He came from a bogey on the 14th hole in the third round, when Koepka's drive went up under a tree and he took a penalty to put him away. From there he went well to the left of the green, with a pin on the left. He went up and down and became a bogey man.
"That could have been a disaster," Koepka said. "It was a momentum thing, I do not want to leak any oil that comes in. I've hit such a terrible wedge, and to get it up and down, I was even impressed by myself."
FILE – In this April 8, 2018, file photo, Patrick Reed responds to his bird on the 12th hole during the fourth round at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, says Ga. Reed that this birdieputt was his most important shot in the final round. (AP Photo / David J. Phillip, File)
FILE – In this July 22, 2018, Francesco Molinari from Italy will play a shot in the 17th green during the last round of the 147th British Open Golf Championships in Carnoustie, Scotland. Molinari says that this 2-iron was one of the biggest shots in the final round. (AP Photo / Peter Morrison, File)
FILE- In this August 12, 2018, Photo-photo Brooks Koepka celebrates the 16th green during the final round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis after making his birdie putt. His 4-iron in this par 3 belonged to the best shots in the majors last year. (AP Photo / Jeff Roberson, file)
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