Major champions and their major moments

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But it wasn’t nearly as meaningful as what happened on the opening hole of the final round.

McIlroy looked unbeatable two months earlier at Augusta National until he lost a four-shot lead in the final round and shot 80. He had an eight-shot lead at Congressional, and after his opening tee shot, received a subtle reminder of his Masters meltdown.

He had 117 yards to hole. That was the exact yardage he had into the first hole on the final day at Augusta.

“I mean, it’s just a little wedge,” McIlroy said. “At Augusta, it was the first swing all week that halfway down I was like, `Oh, don’t go left.’ It was a tentative swing. The pin was back left, and it was back left on the first hole at Congressional. I hit it 6 feet below the hole and made it for birdie. And I thought, `This feels a lot different than it did at Augusta.’

“It was big for me,” he said. “That second shot into the first was very, very big.”

___

Clarke will be the first to admit that his most memorable and most meaningful shots at the British Open were not very good.

Rare is the Open champion who makes it through a week on the links without the help of a good bounce, and such was the case for Clarke. He had a one-shot lead when he pulled his tee shot on the ninth hole, leaving him an awkward stance. For reasons Clarke still doesn’t understand, he tried to hit 9-iron.

“A totally stupid shot to play,” he said.

It was headed for the two bunkers in the fairway when it took a wild hop over them and headed safely toward the putting surface. Clarke escaped with par and still had the lead.

“People have asked me about that. `You got a huge break on Sunday,’” Clarke said. “I say, `Yeah, I got a huge break. But the way I look at it is that I played almost as good as I can on Saturday and didn’t make anything.’ The course gave me a little bit back.”

Most meaningful to Clarke was a two-putt par on the opening hole of the final round. He tried to feed his long birdie putt down the ridge, but it didn’t quite make it. He still had some 10 feet left to keep his one-shot lead, and calmly sank the putt.

“That’s the shot I remember,” Clarke said. “That was such an important putt to hole.”

___

No putt was bigger in the majors than the 35-foot birdie putt that Bradley made on the par-3 17th at Atlanta Athletic Club in the final round of the PGA Championship. Most thought he had thrown away his chances with a triple bogey on the 15th that put him five shots behind. He followed that with back-to-back birdies, then wound up in a playoff when Jason Dufner collapsed behind him.

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