It was the kind of jailed trouble shot from which touring pros always seem to escape.
Masahiro (Massy) Kuramoto of Japan had pushed his second shot with an iron off the fairway and onto a steep incline on the 602-yard, par-5 ninth hole at Congressional yesterday. His third shot was not for the weak of heart.
His ball was in the rough, a foot below his feet on the hill, and he had to fly the ball beneath an overhanging tree branch and over a menacing ravine to the green 150 yards away.
Kuramoto selected an eight-iron, stayed down on the ball and hit a punch shot, taking a six-inch divot. The ball whistled under the limb, over the valley and onto the green, stopping 18 feet past the cup. Kuramoto just missed his birdie putt and went on to shoot 72.
"I was confident on the shot," said Kuramoto, 27, who lives in Toyko. "I stay down on the shot and make a three-quarter swing. On a trouble shot, I try to think about just one thing. If I'm supposed to hit it low, I'm just thinking about that. I was trying to think about punching the ball, hit the ball low."
Kuramoto's tip to amateurs in the trees is to "never gamble. If I see an amateur behind the trees, I tell him to hit a safe shot back to the fairway."
Kuramoto, who normally plays the Japanese tour, does not have his PGA Tour card but got a foreign players' exemption here. His best finish in six American tournaments was a tie for sixth at Doral for $10,425.
Former Frederick pro Donnie Hammond said pros escape from trouble because of the ability to bend the ball around obstacles.
"It's just the spin on the ball. If you want to slice it, take the club outside and come across it. That's what you have to do a lot in trees. It's just the opposite with the hook. Take the club back inside, swing out and keep it low on the follow through."
Teaching pro Bill Strausbaugh offered further advice: "When amateurs are in trouble, they try to make a perfect recovery instead of just getting the ball back into play. Some amateurs try to play a miraculous percentage shot that is just not in their favor.
"Tour players play the percentages more properly. They're seldom going to make the big number. It comes from experience. They are not going to take forced gambles."