10 of the Biggest Putts in Golf History
We all know the saying “drive for show, putt for dough”, and, despite a persistent emphasis on the long game in modern golf coaching, a hot putter is still a key part of the sport. The importance of putting well is even greater for professional golfers, for whom the difference between a sure stroke and a faulty one can be the difference between winning and not winning, between netting millions of pounds and an empty wallet. At the biggest events and in the biggest of moments, this importance is magnified. Could you guide a 10-footer with everything on the line?
Martin Kaymer in the 2012 Ryder Cup
The Miracle at Medinah can be more accurately described as the Miracle of Kaymer's Putter. After being four points down, Europe washed the board blue in the Sunday singles, drawing within a point of retaining the trophy with two matches to go. When Martin Kaymer came to the 18th nursing a one up lead against Steve Stricker, a two putt would secure him the match and team Europe the Ryder Cup trophy. But the usually cool German raced his first putt eight feet past. And Europe's hopes of a victory looked squashed. Were they ever! Kaymer duly drained the comebacker, securing the Ryder Cup for Europe and completing one of the greatest comebacks in history.
Costantino Rocca in the 1995 Open
Has there ever been a more famous putt to make a playoff than Costantino Rocca's 75-foot snake up the Valley of Sin at St Andrews in 1995? After flubbing a chip into the famously deep swale in front of the 18th green, Rocco's challenge looked over and done. He knew it, the crowd knew it – there was no way he could hole out from there, could he? He could, the putt rattling into the cup as the Italian sank to his knees in joy. Unfortunately, the effort of this celebration must have tired Rocca out for he ultimately lost the play-off, handing the trophy to John Daly.
Jean Van de Velde in the 1999 Open
So, to deal with the obvious, Jean Van de Velde didn’t actually win the 1999 Open. In fact, he suffered one of the most horrific and infamous final hole collapses of all time. Often forgotten, however, is the glint of redemption that lay in this trauma: one heck of a clutch 10-foot putt. After dumping his third shot into the burn, dropping and then finding a bunker with his fifth, Van de Velde didn’t just look like throwing away the Open trophy, but even missing a play-off. His bunker shot was good but not great, leaving a swerving 10-footer to force extra time. The putt went in and though the Frenchman would ultimately choke in the play-off, the putt that he holed to make it there remains legendary.
Padraig Harrington in the 2007 Open
Another clutch putt at a Open at Carnoustie, this one comes courtesy of Ireland's second most prolific golfer, Padraig Harrington. Trailing Sergio Garcia in the final round, Harrington caught fire, notching up birdies and even an eagle as he flew up the leaderboard in pursuit of the Spaniard. But defending a one stroke lead, like Jean Van De Velde all those years earlier, Harrington came apart on Carnoustie's 18th. After twice finding the burn, he pitched up to three feet leaving a knee-jangler down a slope for a double bogey six. He held his nerve and slotted it and, when Garcia missed from 10 feet to win the Open outright, got into a play-off which he won. Harrington would go on to defend his title in 2008 and become the first back to back Open champion from Ireland.
Tiger Woods in the 2008 US Open
If Gene Sarazen's famous 4 wood albatross at Augusta in 1935 was the 'shot heard around the world', then this certainly has to be the putt. Playing the 18th hole of Torrey Pines on Sunday, Woods found himself one of the pace and needing a birdie to tie clubhouse leader Rocco Mediate and force an 18 hole play-off for the trophy. But the Big Cat's drive found trouble and after he botched his lay-up, the golfer had to get up and down from 115 yards to catch Mediate. Tiger duly dug a wedge to 15 feet, but on poa annua greens even a putt of half that length would have been no certainty. Sizing the putt up seemed to take Tiger an age. Eventually his putter wobbled, and the ball was on its way. It looked a bobble had knocked it off-course, but then it was back on-line tracking, tracking, TRACKING! They don’t come more clutch than this.
Tiger Woods in the 2001 Players Championship
Woods has holed a lot of clutch putts in his time, but none perhaps more perilous than the 60-foot curler he dropped at the 2001 Players Championship at Sawgrass. The location: the back of the 17th green. Tiger had found one of the most intimidating dancefloors to hit in the game but was some 60 foot or longer away from the pin. To reach the hole, he had to navigate two tiers and a wicked downhill slope. Anything inside 10 feet would be an excellent result - there was a real chance he could putt it into the water! Tiger set the ball on its way… “Better than most… It’s better than most” sounded the commentator, as it rumbled towards the cup. Better than most… And it was.
Jordan Spieth in the 2017 Open
At the start of the Sunday of the 2017 Open, Jordan Spieth had a three stroke lead. But after a stuttery front nine of 37, Spieth’s lead was gone and he was neck and neck with playing partner Matt Kuchar, with the championship on the line. The pair were still all square when they came to the par 4 13th and Spieth hit THAT drive. So far right it almost ended up on the practice ground, Spieth eventually found his tee ball buried in thick rough. He took a drop – this time onto the actual practice area – and fired short right of the green, before pitching up to around eight foot. With Kuchar safely in for a par four, the putt was a must make. Spieth rolled it in. He would go on to finish birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie, par. But the putt on 13 was the “momentum shift”.
Hale Irwin in the 1990 US Open
60 foot to make a playoff in the US Open – no chance, right? Not if your name’s Hale Irwin. The American looked played out when he settled over this monstrously long putt to join a playoff with Mike Donald, but he took the hole in his sights, went through his routine and made a good stroke. The ball trundled over a hump in the green and moved down towards the hole, dropping into the heart of the cup. But what’s made this putt so special wasn’t actually the shot itself: it was the celebration. After holing the putt, Irwin took off on a victory lap round the green, high-fiving spectators like a marathon runner coming into the finish line. He went on to win the play off, securing his third US Open at age 45, and becoming the oldest winner of the title in history.
Paula Creamer in the 2014 Women’s Champions
Another long bomb here, Paula Creamer’s putt to win the 2014 Women’s Champions competition was even longer than Hale Irwin’s and arguably more difficult too. 75 feet separated Creamer from victory – just a two-putt from such length would have been an achievement. Even worse, the putt had to roll over two tiers and down at least three slopes, turning by as much as 15 to 20 feet from right to left from the time it left Creamer’s blade to when it found the hole. The Pink Panther even threated to outdo Hale with her celebration too. But her victory lap was cut short when she was overcome by emotion.
Hinako Shibuno in the 2019 Women’s British Open
The 2019 Women’s British Open heralded the arrival of a brilliant new talent onto the scene: 20-year-old Hinako Shibuno. The Japanese phenom held a two-stroke lead going into the final round but surrendered it early on after a bad start. A late barrage of birdies, however, took her back into a tie for the lead and on 18, a 20-foot putt lay between her and her maiden major title. When it left her putter face, the putt looked to be travelling too fast. It was going straight at the cup, but would it stay in? It did and Shibuno, who had captured the hearts of viewers all over the world with her good humour and ultra-chilled attitude, was bearing away the Women’s British Open trophy in her arms.
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