PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Picking the pivotal moment in a round that delivers major victory can often be difficult — and Gary Woodland has a lot to pick from after he won his first major title on Sunday at the U.S. Open in thrilling fashion.
The turning point in Woodland’s duel with Brooks Koepka seemed to come as he played the par-5 14th hole when he launched his 3-wood second shot from 263 yards to 16 feet.
Playing in the group ahead, Koepka had just ran his birdie attempt by the hole at No. 15 that would have tied him for the lead but Woodland’s two-putt birdie at the 14th extended his advantage to two strokes.
That bold moment likely would have easily defined Woodland’s victory until he pushed his tee shot at the 17th hole to the far right of the green with the hole located some 90 feet on the left of the green. He clipped a 64-degree wedge perfectly off the putting surface to 2 feet for par.
Woodland would birdie the last hole for a closing 69 and a three-stroke victory over Koepka and he had no problem picking which of his clutch shots turned the momentum in his favor.
“The 3-wood at 14. It gave me the confidence to execute the shot on 17,” he said. “There's a lot that could have gone wrong, left is not good, right's out of bounds. Long is not ideal. And the bunker speaks for itself. To execute that shot under the pressure, under the situation, that shot gave me the confidence.”
Woodland also explained that he’d already hit a chip off the 17th green this week during the second round when the pin was back left and he again found himself on the right side of the green. He made par that time, too.