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Martin is major champion with major shot

SOUTHPORT, England (AP) - This wasn't quite the ''shot heard `round the world,'' though Mo Martin did hear it.

Thinking only about the quality of the shot - not that it might be the winning shot in the Ricoh Women's British Open - Martin hit a 3-wood from just under 240 yards on the par-5 18th hole at Royal Birkdale and watched it bounced along the links toward the flag.

''When it was rolling on the ground, I said, `Sit!' And then I said, `Go!' And it looked perfect, so I didn't have anything more to say,'' Martin said.

And then came a sound she won't soon forget.

''I heard it hit the pin from the fairway,'' Martin said, the silver trophy at her side. ''That was a pretty fun feeling.''

The ball rolled against the middle of the flagstick and settled 6 feet away for an eagle. She didn't realize just how important it was until an hour later, when Shanshan Feng of China and Inbee Park of South Korea couldn't stay under par, and then couldn't make birdie over the two par-5 closing holes to catch her.

Martin closed with an even-par 72 - no one broke par in the 25 mph wind Sunday - and finished at 1-under 287 for a one-shot victory over Feng and Suzann Pettersen, whose birdie-birdie finish was too late to atone for a pair of double bogeys earlier in the round.

Americans now have won the first three majors of the LPGA Tour season for the first time since 1999, with Martin following Lexi Thompson at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and Michelle Wie at the U.S. Women's Open.

The beauty of links golf is that it can be so unpredictable, and the biggest surprise turned out to be Martin. She had never won on the LPGA Tour in 63 previous attempts, and her first win made her a major champion.

''It's still soaking in, along with champagne in my jacket,'' Martin said, doused by other players when she returned from the range to collect her trophy. ''This is just unbelievable. It's literally a dream come true.''

She won with an eagle - her first of the year, not unusual considering she is among the shortest hitters in women's golf. She doesn't get many chances. The timing for this one could not have been any better.

And she was never closer than within two shots of the leaders - until one shot changed everything.

''An absolutely perfect 3-wood,'' she said. ''It's definitely one to remember.''

Feng made eight straight pars - that constituted a charge on this difficult day - until a bogey on the 16th. A playoff still looked likely with two par 5s still to play. She missed a 15-foot birdie putt on the 17th, and hit into a bunker on the 18th and missed a 10-foot birdie putt. She closed with a 75.

Park, trying to become the seventh woman to capture four of the LPGA Tour's majors, recovered from a double bogey-bogey start to the back nine with a 20-foot birdie on the 13th, only to fall back to even par when she went over the 14th green and made bogey.

She missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the 17th, and then hit into the rough off the tee on the 18th and into a bunker for her third shot. She bogeyed the last for a 77.

''Made a lot of mistakes that I really didn't need to make,'' Park said. ''Obviously, the last hole drive was really disappointing.''

Martin 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. 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.

And the players couldn't be happier for Martin, whose popularity is rooted in kindness, humility and hard work.

''I thought everybody actually wanted her to win because she's kind of a short player and on the LPGA, there are so many long hitters, and she's proving to us that you don't have to be real long to win a major,'' Feng said. ''And she's so nice and she's always a very good player. So I wanted her to win.''

Martin earned $474,575 - she had $599,760 in career money when she arrived in England.

''Safe to say it's the best week of my life,'' she said.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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