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Shot of a lifetime lifts Mo Martin to British Open title

07/14/2014, 12:00am EDT
By ASSOCIATED PRESS

SOUTHPORT, England — Mo Martin knew she hit her 3-wood exactly how she wanted on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale.

With the ball slightly below her feet, just under 240 yards away and a strong wind at her back, she let it rip and watched the ball track toward the flag. Martin thought it was short. Then she thought it might be too long. Moments later, she realized just how good it was.

"I could hear it hit the pin from the fairway," Martin said. "That was a pretty fun feeling."

The ball rolled into the center of the flagstick and settled six feet away for an eagle, and when no one could catch her, the 31-year-old American became a major champion on Sunday at the Ricoh Women's British Open.

"I think I still need to be pinched," Martin said after closing with an even-par 72 for a one-shot victory over Shanshan Feng of China and Suzann Pettersen of Norway.

It was Martin's first eagle of the year — one of the shortest hitters in the game, she doesn't get many opportunities. She had not won on the LPGA Tour in 63 previous tries. And on a wind-swept Sunday when no one broke par, she was never closer than two shots of the leaders the entire final round. The best shot of her life changed everything.

"An absolutely perfect 3-wood," she said. "When it was in the air, I said, 'Sit.' And then I said, 'Stop.' And then when it was going toward the hole, I said, 'OK, I don't have anything more to say to that ball.' I actually heard it hit the pin. It's definitely one to remember."

She turned and did a little jig in the fairway.

An hour later, it turned out to be the winning shot when Feng and Inbee Park of South Korea couldn't stay under par.

Both needed one birdie over the two par-5 closing holes at Royal Birkdale. Feng missed birdie putts of 15 and 10 feet and shot 75. Park missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th, and then put her tee shot in the right rough on the easy 18th hole and wound up with a bogey for a 77.

Martin, who finished at 1-under 287, was on the practice range preparing for a playoff that never happened when she hugged her caddie, Kyle Morrison.

"Is this real life?" she said.

It seemed like a fairy tale for Martin, who is scheduled to be in this week’s Marathon Classic in Sylvania. Growing up with modest means, her father built a cage in their driveway for her to practice hitting balls. She walked on at UCLA. She needed financial help to keep her dream alive, including the six years it took just to reach the LPGA Tour. Martin said she would keep trying if she woke up happy, felt she was still contributing something to women's golf, and could pay her bills.

And here she is — Mighty Mo, never happier.

When she returned from the range, players gathered around her cart to celebrate with a champagne shower.

"It's still soaking in, along with champagne in my jacket," Martin said. "This is just unbelievable. It's literally a dream come true."

Harman pulls awayto capture 1st title

SILVIS, Ill. — Brian Harman won his first PGA Tour title, using three straight birdie putts in the final five holes to pull away from veteran Zach Johnson to win the John Deere Classic.

Harman had a 5-under 66 in the final round for a 22-under-262 total and a one-stroke victory over Johnson to win $846,000, along with the last exemption for this week's British Open.

Montgomerie takes U.S. Senior Open in playoff

EDMOND, Okla. — Colin Montgomerie won a three-hole playoff against Gene Sauers to win the U.S. Senior Open title at Oak Tree National.

Both entered the playoff at 5 under. Montgomerie entered the third extra hole with a one-shot lead, then made a putt on No. 18 to par the hole and claim the win.

Montgomerie became the fifth golfer to win both the senior PGA Championship and U.S. Senior Open in the same year.

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