One putt gave Bubba Watson a rare sense of calm. One swing reminded Martin Kaymer he finally had all the shots. One pitch proved to Rory McIlroy he could master links golf.
These were not the defining shots from the majors this year.
But they meant something special to the winners, and they were tied to lessons from the past.
Asked to choose the signature shot of his Masters victory and a shot that was particularly pleasing to him, Watson found both on the same hole and the same day — Sunday on the par-5 13th at Augusta National.
With a two-shot lead and six holes to play, he hit driver so outrageously bold and long that it sailed down the left side of the fairway, over the trees and disappeared for a nervous moment until plopping down in the fairway.
"It could have easily hit a tree and gone the wrong way or dropped down in the creek," Watson said. "When you lose the ball over the trees, that's when you get nervous because you can't see it. When you hear the roar of the crowd, you can breathe again."
With nothing more than a sand wedge to the green, however, Watson hit it to 20 feet and then left his eagle attempt 6 feet short. And that's when he leaned on his experience from winning his first green jacket.
"If you go back to '12, the same thing happened," he said. "I hit 9-iron in there and left the putt 7 feet short and I made it. That started four (birdies) in a row. It was the same with this eagle putt. I left it way short. I just said to myself, 'Well, last time you did this you made the putt and won.' I knew after that tee shot if I made birdie they'd have to put on a show to beat me.
"Making that putt was a key moment for me — for my confidence, calmness, everything."
Picking out a signature shot for Kaymer isn't easy in an eight-shot, wire-to-wire victory at Pinehurst No. 2. He quickly settled on the par-5 fifth hole Saturday, where he hit 7-iron from a sandy area to an elevated green, the ball stopping 5 feet away for eagle to restore his momentum. He had started with two bogeys in four holes, and had just made a 15-foot par putt on No. 4 to avoid double bogey.
"Within 15 minutes, to go from a little negative to super, super positive, that was a defining moment for me," he said.
But the most satisfying moment?
Go back to the fourth hole on Friday, a shot that was insignificant to everyone but Kaymer and caddie Craig Connelly. The German had spent two years retooling his swing to become a complete player, not just the guy who hits a fade. He was in the fairway, stuck between clubs. Kaymer felt the shot called for a draw.
This was a major test.
"I was 100 percent convinced I would hit that high draw to 6 or 7 feet short of the pin," Kaymer said. "A draw used to be difficult to hit. Nowadays, it's not a big problem. But I pulled off the shot and said to Craig, 'How good was that golf shot?' I started it at the right edge of the green. The rhythm was good. It was a crisp hit. The flight was good, 10 feet short of the hole. For me, it was the best shot I hit all week."
McIlroy might have won the British Open on Saturday when he made two eagles on the last three holes to stretch his lead to six shots. The lasting image is his swing and pose with than 5-iron into the 18th at Royal Liverpool to 10 feet for eagle.
In his eyes, the claret jug wasn't his until he drilled a driver on the par-5 16th hole Sunday to set up a two-putt birdie and take a three-shot lead.
But it was the next hole — a par — that he found particularly pleasing.
"Not a defining moment in the tournament, yet a really important one," he said. "My pitch over the bunker on the 17th hole on Sunday was extremely difficult and demanded a lot of feel and control. It was a true links shot I had to make — pick a spot, get the pace right and let it run out to the hole."
It was close to perfect.
"That really felt good," he said.
The PGA Championship was the most exciting major. Four players had a share of the lead on the back nine. The shot that ultimately won McIlroy a second straight major was his 9-iron out of a fairway bunker to 10 feet for birdie on No. 17 at Valhalla for a two-shot lead with one hole to play.
In his eyes, how he started the back nine Sunday was as important as how he finished.
Trailing by three shots, he hit 3-wood from 281 yards to 7 feet for eagle on the par-5 10th that got him back in the game. It wasn't the purest shot McIlroy hit at Valhalla, but he found a small measure of redemption. Remember, McIlroy hit 3-wood over the fence and out-of-bounds in the opening round and made double bogey.
That was Thursday, with time on his side. This was Sunday, with time running out.
"I had taken a 7 at the 10th … and wasn't sure what I could manage as I stood over my 3-wood on Sunday," he said. "And then everything pretty much seemed to change for me after that point. My game had been a little flat, and I couldn't find a spark.
"Over the next few holes, my confidence grew and I felt I could swing the tournament back in my favor."
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