Jack Nicklaus vs Tiger Woods - Their Greatest Clutch Putts
WHAT is a clutch putt? It is when a golfer simply has to make it to win a tournament, to force a playoff, to avoid a costly bogey or to make a statement of intent to the rest of the field.
And there are two golfers who stand head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to willing the ball into the hole when it matters most - Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Here we recall some of biggest and best putts these two incredible golfers were able to hole when they absolutely had to.
We start with Nicklaus, who won 18 majors.
The Masters (1986)
At the age of 46, Nicklaus was looking to break a six-year winless drought at Augusta when he found himself four shots behind Greg Norman in the final round. He played the front nine in 35 but, with the heat really on, came home in 30. The highlight came on the 17th green when he drained a snaking putt from the back of the green. It was a putt that had to drop and from the moment it left his putter the ball was only going to finish in one place - the heart of the hole. Nicklaus has since said that he has attempted the same putt many times and has never been able to get the ball to break the way it did that day.
The Masters (1975)
The 1975 Masters is widely regarded as one of the greatest as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, and Johnny Miller went toe-to-toe in the final round. Nicklaus found himself one behind Weiskopf as he stood over a 40-foot putt on the 16th green. He knew that he simply had to make it, and he did. It broke the resistance of both Miller and Weiskopf and the Golden Bear would go on to collect his fifth Green Jacket.
The Open (1977)
Nicklaus and Tom Watson produced one of the greatest exhibitions the game of golf has ever seen in the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977. They traded birdies for fun for four days. When they came to the 72nd hole Watson was leading by a stroke. Nicklaus hit his drive into a horrible lie in the rough to the right of the fairway. He could barely see the ball but somehow managed to muscle the ball onto the green, miles from the hole. Watson had put his approach three feet from the hole. As Nicklaus eyed up the putt there was an inevitability about the outcome. And, sure enough, he holed it. In the end, he came up one short as Watson holed his own short putt. But at least Jack had asked the question.
The Open (1970)
After Doug Sanders had missed a tiddler on the final green to win at the Old Course, he finished tied with Nicklaus and they had to return the following day for an 18-hole playoff. When they reached the 18th they were still level. Nicklaus removed his jumper and struck a magnificent drive that finished in the rough at the back of the 360-yard closing hole. He hit a decent chip but left himself with a three-foot putt that broke from left to right - almost identical to the one that Sanders had missed the day before. Nicklaus made no such mistake and launched his putter skywards - as it landed it narrowly missed Sanders.
And what about Woods?
US Open (2008)
Woods has achieved many incredible things during a remarkable career but nothing will ever top his victory at the 2008 US Open. Playing with a broken leg, he came to the 18th green and found himself with 12-foot putt that he simply had to hole to keep alive his hopes of beating Rocco Mediate and winning his 14th major title. Talk about a pressure putt. Of course he holed it. Woods would go on to win at the 91st hole. He later said: “I changed my stroke on that one a little bit because it was going to be so bouncy. I hit up on it a little bit to try and get the ball rolling earlier. Growing up on poa annua, that’s what I’ve always really done. I hit it more with my hands and I made sure I released it a lot. And I did, and I got the ball rolling and it was bouncing all over the place. The stroke felt good. And then the ball took forever to break because it was bouncing most of the time.”
PGA Championship (2000)
Woods regards this one as the best putt of his storied career. He came to the final green with a super-fast seven-foot putt to defeat Bob May and keep alive his hopes of the Tiger Slam. Woods said: “Considering the circumstance, the pressure, the putt that was so, so, so fast, and the break, that was the one. Dead centre. And it was the circumstance, the pressure, how well Bob and I played. It was a hell of a shootout and it came in a major. We were matching each other with birdies in a major. That putt on 18, everything on the line, gave me a chance to win. Yeah, that was the one.”
The Masters (2005)
Having blown a two-stroke lead with two to play against Chris DiMarco, (including a missed 8-footer on the 18th in regulation), Woods faced an 18-footer down the slope for the win at the first extra hole. And of course Woods stepped up to ball and buried the putt right in the centre of the hole.
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