Top 10 Most Dramatic Finishes of this Century
Post by Golf Journalist Nick Bonfield
The final round of the WGC-HSBS Champions provided one of the most dramatic finishes of the century as Bubba Watson recorded his first WGC win in astounding fashion. The two-time Masters champion led by two with three holes remaining, but a bogey, double run on the 16th and 17th saw him fall a shot behind Tim Clark. The diminutive South African looked set to secure a maiden WGC title following a stiffed approach at the par-5 18th, but Watson holed a devilishly difficult bunker shot to force a play-off and saw off Clark on the first extra hole. In light of that phenomenal conclusion in China, I’ve decided to run down some of the most intense, excitement-fuelled and memorable finishes in recent years.
It seems apt that Bubba Watson has another entry on the list. In a play-off at the 2012 Masters, the left-hander sprayed his drive into the trees on the par-4 10th hole. He looked certain to miss out to Louis Oosthuizen, but an enormous stroke of luck handed him a chance to redeem himself. Somehow, his ball settled in a clearing surrounded by dense wood and shrubland. Still, the shot he faced was unfathomably difficult. He bent a wedge almost 90 degrees round trees and onto the putting surface. A bewildered Oosthuizen couldn’t make an up and down and Watson two-putted for his first major title.
The drama wasn’t bad the following year at Augusta, either. In truth, the 2013 Masters was a rather drab affair, until the 72nd hole. Scott made a birdie and fist-pumped his way around the green, clearly thinking he’d done enough to win his first major. But Angel Cabrera – the 2009 Masters champion – had other ideas. He stiffed his approach to the par-4 18th, one of the hardest holes on the course, as the elation drained out of the Australian. But Scott bounced back in superb fashion, making a birdie at the second play-off hole and before one of the most heart-warming celebrations in memory.
John Deere Classic, 2013
Jordan Spieth vindicated his intrepid decision to drop out of college to pursue a full-time golf career almost immediately, but his crowning glory of 2013 came at the John Deere Classic. Needing to make a birdie on the 72nd hole to enter a play-off with Zach Johnson and David Hearn, the 19-year-old found sand with his approach. Facing a tricky bunker shot towards water, he remarkably holed it and went on to win his maiden title at the fifth play-off hole, securing a two-year PGA Tour exemption in the process.
John Deere Classic, 2012
The John Deere Classic – not one of the PGA Tour’s stand-out events – has been a magnet for drama over the past couple of seasons. In 2012, Johnson, who sits on the tournament’s board of directors, found himself in a play-off with little-known Troy Matteson. Both players made a hash of the first extra hole – making double bogeys – but Johnson steeped up the second time around, hitting his six-iron approach from a fairway bunker, over water, to an inch from the cup.
Shell Houston Open, 2014
Matt Jones joined the PGA Tour in 2007 but didn’t record his first victory until this year’s Shell Houston Open. That scenario, though, looked highly unlikely with Matt Kuchar one clear standing in the 72nd fairway. The American, however, pulled his approach into water and was forced to make an outstanding up and down to set up a play-off. On the first additional hole, Jones missed the green, and, with a bunker between him and the flag, proceeded to hole a long pitch-and-run to record his first PGA Tour victory and secure an invite to the Masters.
BMW Masters, 2014
Since its inception last year, the European Tour’s Finals Series has certainly lived up to its billing as an end-of-season extravaganza. The week before Watson’s heroics at the HSBC Champions, Marcel Siem – one of the circuit’s most colourful characters – was creating fireworks of his own. Alex Levy imploded on the back nine, blowing a five-shot lead to fall into a play-off with Siem and Ross Fisher. With his two opponents safely on the green, the boisterous German holed his chip shot to land the biggest title of his career.
US Open, 2008
Tiger Woods was at the peak of his powers in 2008, but, even still, his performance at the US Open went above and beyond anything that even the most delusional person could have forecast. Struggling with a serious knee injury that made even walking difficult, Woods battled through the final round and kept himself within one shot of Rocco Mediate’s lead playing the last hole. Of course, he made the requisite 18-footer for birdie with Mediate already in the clubhouse and inevitably defeated him in the subsequent 18-hole play-off.
Open Championship, 2002
The 2002 Open was one of the most riveting tournaments in the Championship’s esteemed history. Four players – Ernie Els, Thomas Levet, Stuart Appelby and Steve Elkington – overcame the treacherous and typically Scottish links conditions at Muirfileld to reach six-under-par after 72-holes. In the four-hole play-off, Levet edged ahead with a brilliant 50-foot birdie putt but bogeyed the final extra hole to fall back into a tie with Els. With the Australian duo eliminated, Els made a gutsy up-and-down in sudden-death to deprive Levet of a major title and register his first Open triumph.
Canadian Open, 2000
Tiger Woods pulled off one of the most outrageous shots in the history of professional golf at the 2000 Canadian Open. With Grant Waite trailing by one but on the green of the par-5 18th in two, and the 14-time major champion in a fairway bunker, a play-off looked the likely outcome. Woods, though, had other ideas. With 213 yards remaining, over water and trees to a tucked pin, he pulled out a six iron, made a perfect connection and watched his ball settle some 10 feet from the flag. He knocked in the subsequent putt for his ninth victory of the year.
Lyoness Open, 2014
Earlier this year, Austrian Bernd Wiesberger was in position to win his national title for the second time in three years. Unfortunately for the on-looking fans, Mikael Lundberg didn’t read the script. On the first play-off hole, the par-3 18th, the Swede – a player who’d been in the golfing wilderness for some time – holed a 50-footer across the length of the green to crush Wiesberger and record his first European Tour victory for six years.
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