Top 10 Golf Shots In The Final Round Of A Major
Many of us have stood over a birdie putt on the 18th green pretending we need to make it to beat Tiger at Augusta… Not you? Maybe I’m just a golf nerd.
The last time it happened to me, I got to thinking about the best shots in golf history. There have been some pretty cool moments in modern golf: Tiger’s putt at Torrey Pines to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate, Bubba Watson’s 40 yard hook from the trees at Augusta, and Corey Pavin’s 4-wood at Shinnecock, to name a few.
There is much debate around the best shots in golf history, but here is my top 10 in the final round of a major:
10. Phil Mickelson, final round of the 2010 Masters, second shot on No. 13
Phil Mickelson’s second shot to the 13th green during the final round of the 2010 Masters quickly became the signature shot of the year’s opening major. Facing a 187 yard carry of Rae’s Creek and a four foot opening between trees, Lefty decided to go for it. Phil, who is both admired and criticized for his risky shot making, pulled off one of the greatest shots in Masters history. He birdied three of the last six holes to win by three shots over Lee Westwood.
9. Shaun Micheel, final round of the 2003 PGA Championship, second shot on No. 18
Shaun Micheel’s second shot is known to be one of the greatest shots to ever clinch a major championship. His 7-iron approach went from 175 yards to two inches and easily locked up his first (and only) major. He defeated Chad Campbell by two shots.
8. Jack Nicklaus, final round of the 1972 US Open, tee shot on No. 17
Jack Nicklaus was quoted as saying, “The shot I performed, I don’t think I could ever do again.” He was talking about the 1-iron he rang off the stick on the 71st hole of the 1972 US Open at Pebble Beach. Jack went on to tap in for birdie and win by three shots over Bruce Crampton.
7. Ben Hogan, final round of the 1950 US Open, second shot on No. 18
If you’re a golfer and have eyes, you have seen the picture of Ben Hogan holding his pose after a 1-iron approach to the 72nd hole of the 1950 US Open at Merion. It is one of golf’s most iconic images. Hogan’s 200 yard 1-iron helped him par the 18th hole to force an 18-hole Monday playoff, which he won easily. Hogan was in a severe car accident a year and a half earlier. He was not expected to walk again, let alone win majors.
6. Jack Nicklaus, final round of 1986 Masters, tee shot on No. 16
The 1986 Masters is known to possibly be the greatest major championship in golf history. With ten holes left in the tournament, Jack Nicklaus trailed Seve Ballesteros by six, and went on a tear. On number 16, he didn’t even watch his tee shot. He didn’t have to. Instead, he picked up his tee and winked at his son, who was on the bag that week. Jack’s tee shot finished inches from the cup, resulting in an easy birdie. He fired a 30 on the back nine and won his sixth green jacket. At 46, Nicklaus became the oldest champion in Masters history, a record which still stands.
5. Gene Sarazen, final round of 1935 Masters, second shot on No. 15
I am going way back for this one. All the way to 1935. In fact, the tournament wasn’t even called The Masters back then. It was known as the Augusta National Invitational. Gene Sarazen holed a 4-wood from 235 yards for a double eagle on 15 to propel himself into a playoff. What impresses me about this shot, other than the fact he made a two on a par 5, is that he used a fairway wood to do it. Even with modern technology, the 15th green at Augusta is extremely hard to hold. Sarazen went on to beat Craig Wood in a 36-hole playoff.
4. Tiger Woods, final round of the 2005 Masters, chip shot on No. 16
Tiger’s chip-in on the 70th hole of the 2005 Masters won’t soon be forgotten. His delicate chip shot down the hill seemed to pause for just a moment before falling into the hole. The crowds (and Tiger) erupted into celebration. Woods went on to beat Chris DiMarco in a playoff.
3. Bob Tway, final round of the 1986 PGA Championship, bunker shot on No. 18
Bob Tway and Greg Norman were tied on the 72nd hole. Tway’s ball went from the tee, to the deep rough, to a deep green side bunker. Needing at least a par to have a chance, Tway miraculously holed his bunker shot for birdie, giving Norman one of his many runner-up finishes.
2. Tom Watson, final round of the 1982 US Open, chip shot on No. 17
If you have played Pebble Beach, you have likely tried to replicate this shot.. and likely failed. Jack Nicklaus was watching the drama unfold from the clubhouse as Watson addressed his ball in the gnarly rough surrounding the 17th green. Watson famously told his caddie that he was going to hole the shot, and he did. Watson went on to win the event by two over Nicklaus.
1. Larry Mize, final round of the 1987 Masters, chip shot on second playoff hole (No. 11)
This shot is replayed at least once every year during Master’s Week. Larry Mize and Greg Norman were duelling on the second playoff hole in what was shaping up to be an electric afternoon. Mize missed his second shot well to right of the green. Norman, thinking a par would win, cautiously played to the right fringe about 50 feet from the hole. Mize just wanted to get it close. Somehow, he holed the 140 foot chip for an unlikely birdie to end the tournament. Norman was stunned yet again.
There you have it. My top 10 shots in the final round of a major. The shots these players made would be hard on an ordinary day. Given the circumstances, these shots are next to impossible. Somehow, these guys pulled them off. What are your favorites?