Every golfer will hit some remarkable shots during their career. Even the most woeful hacker will, when they finally hang up their clubs, be able to reflect on a hole-in-one, or the time they holed-out from a seemingly unplayable lie in the woods. The very greatest shots, however, are those majestic or miraculous strikes that occur when the pressure is on, when the result of the blow decides a tournament or changes a player’s life forever.
Here we take a look at the 10 greatest shots ever played.
10 – Constantino Rocca on the 18th at St Andrews in the 1995 Open Championship
The first shot in our list of the 10 greatest shots comes courtesy of diminutive Italian Constantino Rocca.
Coming to the final hole at the Home of Golf, Rocca needed a birdie to force a playoff with “Wild Thing” John Daly. After a fine drive, he was left with a short chip over the “Valley of Sin,” but nerves got to him and he duffed his effort into the swale. He still had a vague chance, but he needed to hole from 65 feet out of the valley. He rapped the putt and it ran up onto, and across the green towards the hole. Incredibly it went in. Rocca dropped to his knees, took off his hat, fell forward to the ground and began beating the turf with his fists. Unfortunately, the Italian went on to lose the four-hole playoff against Daly; all his emotional energy had been spent on that incredible shot.
9 – Seve Ballesteros on the final hole at Crans-sur-Sierre in the 1993 European Masters
This is the first of two appearances for the swashbuckling Spaniard in our 10 greatest shots countdown. This one makes the list for its out-and-out audacity.
Seve cut his tee shot into the trees on the right of the home hole. He had just half a backswing, a tree in his way, an eight-foot wall just in front of him and a dinner plate sized gap through the trees to aim for. Caddy Billy Foster urged him to chip out, but Seve brushed him aside. He blasted a shot over the wall, through the gap to the front of the green. Then, typically, he chipped in for a three.
8 – Sandy Lyle on the 18th at Augusta in the 1988 U.S. Masters
Scotland’s Sandy Lyle needed a par on the final hole at Augusta to force a playoff with Mark Calcavecchia for the 1988 Masters. Lyle’s drive found the left hand bunker, leaving a hugely difficult shot. The Scot selected a 7-iron and clipped the ball off the sand. It narrowly cleared the high lip in front of him, landed 30 feet by the pin and rolled back to about 10. He holed the birdie putt to win by a shot and become the first Brit to win the Masters.
Fast forward video to: 1:16.
7 – Tom Watson on the 17th at Pebble Beach in the 1982 U.S. Open
Locked in another legendary tussle with his great rival Jack Nicklaus, Watson came to the 71st hole of the 1982 U.S. Open needing two pars to tie the Golden Bear, who had already completed his final round.
The par-3 17th at Pebble Beach is one of the most demanding short holes in world golf and, when Watson’s 2-iron tee shot drifted into the thick rough just off the green it looked as though it might claim another victim. But Watson wasn’t fazed. He eyed up the shot, told his caddy he was going to hole the chip then did just that. He made perfect contact and dropped the ball delicately on to the rock hard surface. It rolled out into the cup and Watson ran a lap of the green in celebration. Watson went on to birdie the home hole to win by two.
6 – Christy O’Connor Jnr on the 18th at The Belfry in the Ryder Cup of 1989
Few gave O’Connor Jnr much of a chance against talented American Fred Couples in the final day singles, but they came to the 18th all-square. Both found the fairway, Couples almost 100 yards further up. O’Connor fired a 2-iron from 230 yards to within three feet of the hole. The shot destroyed Couples who semi-shanked his second and failed to get up-and-down. O’Connor secured a vital point that enabled Europe to retain the Ryder Cup. O’Connor’s 2-iron is certainly worthy of a place in our list of the 10 greatest shots.
Fancy trying to replicate this shot?
5 – Bubba Watson on the 10th hole at Augusta in the 2012 Masters
We’re into the top-5 now of our list of the 10 greatest shots ever and here we turn to left-handed “Bomber” Bubba Watson.
The American had played a superb back nine in the final round of the 2012 Masters to force a playoff against Louis Oosthuizen. The South African had, himself, played one of the greatest shots of all-time earlier in the round, holing his second to the par-5 2nd for an albatross two.
Watson and Oosthuizen halved the first extra hole in pars; then moved on to the difficult 10th. Both men lost their drives right, but Watson seemed in more trouble, deep in the woods. After Oosthuizen played up short of the green, Watson produced a miracle stroke. He hooked a wedge shot from out of the trees, bending the ball almost 90 degrees to find the green and set up victory.
4 – Seve Ballesteros on the 18th at PGA National in the 1983 Ryder Cup
Seve’s second mention in our rundown of the 10 greatest shots is for the finest shot ever played in the Ryder Cup.
Tied with one to play against Craig Stadler in the final day singles, Seve blasted his tee shot into deep rough, then hacked his second into a bunker. The point looked destined to go the American’s way, but Seve had other ideas. He had 245 yards to go and he took out a 3-wood. He took a mighty swipe at the ball, picking it cleanly from the sand. It narrowly cleared the lip and flew left to right, ending just short of the putting surface. He got down in two for a par and a half. “Greatest shot I ever saw,” said Jack Nicklaus.
3 – Padraig Harrington on the 17th in the final round of The Open at Birkdale in 2008
Coming to the par-5 penultimate hole, Harrington (the defending Open champion) was two clear of clubhouse leader Ian Poulter and three ahead of his playing partner Greg Norman.
When Harrington pulled out a 5-wood for his second shot, 249 yards from the pin, most watching questioned the decision. Surely, playing safe was the best option. Even Greg Norman was surprised; he whispered to his caddy, “Hey, we can still win this.” But the Irishman played a phenomenal shot. It set off just left of the target and drifted back through its flight before chasing up the green to set up an eagle three and a second Open title for Harrington.
2 – Gene Sarazen at the 15th in the final round of the 1935 Masters
Sarazen was three shots behind Craig Wood with four to play and it looked as though “The Squire” was likely to come up just short in the second running of The Masters. But on the par-5 15th he struck the “shot heard ‘round the world.” Using a 4-wood for his second, he cleared the water and holed out for an incredible albatross two. He finished tied with Wood then beat him in the playoff the following day.
1 – Tiger Woods on the 16th at Augusta in the 2005 U.S. Masters
At number 1 in our list of the 10 greatest shots, it has to be Tiger’s chip-in at the 2005 U.S. Masters.
One ahead of Chris DiMarco, Tiger fired his tee shot through the green at the par-3 into a seemingly impossible position – the ball resting against the second cut of grass with an extraordinary slope between it and the cup.
Tiger took his time then struck his chip onto the top section of the green, it checked up perfectly then began to tumble slowly down the slope. It took an age to roll down to the cup, then it stopped right on the lip – a perfect moment for his sponsors – before gravity won the battle and it dropped into the hole for an incredible two.