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“It has to be the 4-iron into 18, given the poignancy of the hole, the iconic photograph we’ve all grown up with and the 18th hole of a major,” Rose said. “That was the one that put it away.”

Adding to the pressure was the wait. Luke Donald was taking a penalty drop, leaving more time for Rose to contemplate the consequences of the shot.

“I appreciated the situation I was in and relished it,” Rose said. “And luckily, the shot came off. I drilled it. It came off perfectly.”

He believes the 18th hole played a big role earlier in the week. Rain kept the second round from being completed on Friday, and Rose was in the last group that managed to finish without having to return Saturday morning. He watched Phil Mickelson ahead of him make birdie to share the 36-hole lead. Rose missed the fairway, hacked it out of rough and had 115 yards to a pin that was just over the false front, a shot that required close to perfection.

He delivered, hitting wedge to 7 feet.

“It was pretty dark by this time,” he said. “But I wanted to hit the putt. Even if I missed, the advantage was there to sleep in. It was a slippery, downhill, left-to-righter for a 69 to stay even par. From a momentum point of view, just finishing and giving myself time in bed for the rhythm of the week … that was big.”

BRITISH OPEN

Mickelson didn’t hesitate when asked for the signature shot of his British Open victory _ the 3-wood on the par-5 17th that set up a two-putt birdie.

“Very simply put, there was no margin for error,” he said. “If I miss it a little bit to the right, it goes in a bunker and I have a very difficult par. I have to go out sideways and try to get up-and-down for par. If I miss it left, it’s the worst rough on the golf course and I could lose my ball or have an unplayable lie. But if I hit it perfectly, there’s a good chance I could have a two-putt birdie. And that’s what happened.

“I hit it dead perfect at the time I needed it most,” he said. “If I made birdie, I felt like I would win.”

Mickelson’s closing 66 at Muirfield is considered the best round of the year, and one of the best final rounds in any major. He made birdie on four of the last six holes. As much attention as that 3-wood receives, Lefty was equally pleased with a 5-iron into 8 feet for birdie that started his big run.

It was on the 13th hole, 190 yards and dead into a strong wind to a narrow green.

“If you miss it at all, the ball gets blown off sideways, and you saw it with just about every player behind me,” Mickelson said. “I hit it so solid and perfect through the wind the ball just soared. It was the prettiest shot.”

PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

Jason Dufner had a two-shot lead with three holes to play. Leads like that can disappear quickly at a major, especially with the tough, two closing holes at Oak Hill.

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