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The Worst Shots Played by the Best Golfers

By: | Fri 14 Aug 2020 | Comments

WE SIT and marvel at the wondrous shots played by the world’s top golfers. Massive drives, fairway woods that finish three feet from the hole, stunning wedges, miraculous recoveries from the rough and from behind trees, glorious bunker shots and 60-foot birdie putts. So when it all goes wrong it comes as something of a surprise - and it does go wrong more often than you might believe. And sometimes in the most spectacular fashion. Here we take a look at 10 of the shots that the men and women who hit them would rather forget. There are some very big names in this list...

Rickie Fowler

Struggling with his game, Fowler was inside the cut mark at the 2020 US PGA Championship at Harding Park and was heading into the weekend. That was until he moved to flick in a tiny bogey putt on his 15th hole in the second round and completely missed the ball. It cost him a stroke. He also dropped a shot two holes later and ended up missing the cut by a single shot. It is safe to assume that he will not be repeating that mistake anytime soon.

Hale Irwin

Irwin was responsible for the costliest air shot in history. It happened on the 14th green in the third round of The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in 1983. Irwin went to tap-in a six-inch putt with the back of his putter – but completely missed the ball. He would go on to lose to Tom Watson by one shot. He explained it succinctly enough: “Went up to backhand a six-incher, missed it, finished second to Watson by one stroke. Careless.”

Jean Van de Velde

The Frenchman has gone down in golf folklore for his collapse on the final hole at the 1999 Open at Carnoustie. He stood on the tee requiring a six to win. He actually took seven and went on to lose in a playoff. There were some horrors among the strokes that he hit on that hole but the one that sticks in the mind is his third, from the rough. No more than 70 yards from the green, he chunked the ball 30 yards, straight into the Barry Burn, albeit from a very poor lie.

Davis Love III

In the final round of the 1997 Players Championship, Love was on the 17th green. As he took his practice stroke, the end of his putter-head clipped his ball. Love shook his head in disbelief and continued. He took another practice stroke and holed the ball after two more putts, marking a bogey four on the card. He should have replaced ball and given himself a one-shot penalty. By the time that the PGA Tour's rules officials found out what he had done, Love had already signed his card, and they were left with no option but to disqualify him.

Hunter Mahan 

Mahan is one of golf’s most thoroughly likeable players, hugely popular among his peers and his teammates. Or at least he was until the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor. Now it has to be said that chipping has never been Mahan’s strong suit, especially under pressure. And the pressure was never greater than in his crucial singles match against Graeme McDowell, upon which the fate of the event hung. McDowell got himself two up with two to play when he holed a crucial putt at the 16th. They came to the 17th and, with everything on the line, Mahan chunked the most straightforward of chips to hand the match - and the trophy - to McDowell. He was inconsolable.

Mark Calcavecchia

The USA won the 1991 Ryder Cup at Kiawah Island, known as the War on the Shore, but Calcavecchia did not take part in the celebrations. He was four up with four to play in his singles match against Colin Montgomerie. Monty fought back to win the 15th and 16th holes. They came to the 17th, a par three. Monty dumped his tee shot in the water, apparently handing the match to his American opponent. Calcavecchia had other ideas, shanking the ball into the water with what was one of the worst shots ever witnessed at this level. To make matters worse, he even missed a two-foot putt. He lost the hole, and the 18th, and admitted afterwards that he nearly suffered a mental breakdown as a result. Instead of joining the party he walked down to the beach, sank to his knees on the sand and cried his eyes out.


You come to the 18th hole and you leave yourself a 12-inch putt to win the Kraft Nabisco, one of women’s golf’s majors. Your name is IK Kim and as you stand over the ball you are already preparing your victory speech and reflecting on how this victory is going to change your life. You work out who you are going to thank and how you are going to spend the winner’s cheque. You have already won three times on the LPGA Tour but this is your moment. The commentators describe the tiny putt as a formality. You take the club back - and you look on in horror as it horseshoes out. Unsurprisingly, you go on to lose the playoff at the first hole to Sun-Young Yoo. And then you ask yourself how you are ever going to forget that miss.

Tiger Woods

Everybody hits bad shots. Even golfers who win 15 majors, as it turns out. We are all used to watching in awe as Tiger Woods pounds out huge drives but there was a shocking moment at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Championship when Woods walked on to the first tee to rapturous applause. And walked off it in silence after hitting a drive that travelled no more than 100 yards. He hit the ground before the ball and produced a drive that would have embarrassed most 28 handicappers.

Rory McIlroy

Standing in the middle of the seventh fairway in the 2014 Dubai Desert Classic after a perfect drive, McIlroy pulled out a three wood for his second shot at the 572-yard par five. It is a shot that is meat and drink to the Northern Irishman. He was attempting to hit a high fade into the green. Instead he struck an horrendous duck hook that travelled barely 100 yards. After getting over the shock, even Rory was able to see the funny side of it.

Tom Kite

When President Gerald Ford played golf, people were advised to duck, especially when he had a driver in his hands. He once said that he knew he was getting better when he realised that he was hitting fewer people. So imagine the stunned silence at the 1992 US PGA Championship when Tom Kite - known for the accuracy and consistency of his driving, came to the 11th tee, came over the top of the ball and hit it 60 yards - nearly decapitating the gallery who were lining the fairway.

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