The Top 13 Putts Of All Time

Golf Care, 21st December 2020

Where do you even start? Well, those 50-footers and huge breaking putts that you pretty much see every week if you tune in for long enough – forget those.

These putts came at crucial moments in the game’s biggest tournaments. They’re that little bit more special, and have left an indelible impression on golfing history.

So, let’s get stuck in. Here are the top 13 putts in golf history.

1. Phil Mickelson, 2004 US Masters, 18th hole, Augusta National

Lefty’s famous 6-iron from the pine straw in 2010 is one of the greatest iron shots ever played at Augusta – but six years earlier, he rolled in the most important putt of his career.

What would have happened if that 20-footer had stayed out? At the time, he had that unwanted tag of being the ‘best player in the game never to have won a Major’.

He now has five, of course, and it was that putt on the final hole which saw him edge Ernie Els to the title that released the shackles.

Mickelson had a share of the lead heading into the final round, but struggled to the turn in 38.

He came back with birdies on 12, 13 and 14. Then came the birdie on 18, and with it a star jump – a pretty big one.

2. Tiger Woods, 2008 US Open, 18th hole, Torrey Pines

Woods has holed thousands of crucial putts over the years, but perhaps none bigger than this one.

Who really knows what kind of pressure he was under to claim his 14th Major?

Perhaps there’s more heat on a player looking to win for the first time. But this was clutch from the American, who was playing through the pain barrier.

Having surrendered the advantage to Rocco Mediate on the back nine on Sunday, Woods needed to birdie the 72nd hole to force a play-off.

Because of what followed, it’s easy to forget the superb wedge he played from the rough to even find the putting surface.

It left him with a 15 foot putt, but it was a slippery one from left-to-right. Do or die.

The putt wiped its feet and dropped. Of course it did. The next day, he beat Mediate to win his third US Open title.

3. Costantino Rocca, 1995 Open Championship, 18th hole, St Andrews

This is one of the Open Championship’s most dramatic moments, certainly at St Andrews.

Stood on the tee, the Italian knew he needed a birdie to force a play-off.

It was that simple – and he got that three. Had he done so with a more straightforward pitch and putt, most people would have forgotten how this one ended.

However, after duffing his pitch into the fearsome Valley of Sin, he duly stepped up and holed a tramliner from some 65 feet.

It had pace on it, and probably would have run a good 10 feet by had it missed – but let’s not be too critical.

Rocca dropped to his knees in jubilation – and probably shock, too.

Sadly, the euphoria was short-lived. Rocca lost the ensuing four-hole playoff, and America’s John Daly lifted the Claret Jug.

4. Martin Kaymer, 2012 Ryder Cup, 18th hole, Medinah Country Club

At one stage, Team Europe found themselves 10-4 down to the Americans and looked on course for a heavy defeat.

Two points from the final two Saturday fourball matches gave Jose Maria Olazabal’s side a glimmer of hope – and it’s all they needed.

The Europeans roared back and all eyes turned to Kaymer’s match against Steve Stricker.

The German needed to make a six-footer on the final hole, after racing his birdie effort past.

It wasn’t the longest of putts, sure. But with your team relying on you, when you’ve been a touch clumsy with your first effort, and it falls on you to complete a remarkable comeback… that’s pressure.

Kaymer is a player you can bank on, so it was no surprise that he found the centre of the cup.

5. Jack Nicklaus, 1986 US Masters, 17th hole, Augusta National

Something special was brewing when the Golden Bear made birdies at the 9th, 10th, and 11th.

Then, the noise level cranked up a notch after another at the 13th, which was followed by an eagle at the 15th.

The 46-year-old was in the zone. Elsewhere, Seve was in the water.

The putt Nicklaus holed on the 17th green is one of the most iconic in golf history.

That walk, the lofted putter in celebration. We’ve all done our best to mimic it at one time or another.

After a par at the last, Nicklaus claimed his 18th and final Major.

6. Sandy Lyle, 1988 US Masters, 18th hole, Augusta National

Lyle would have spared himself the trauma of a putt to win the Masters, had he not played such a tremendous 7-iron from the bunker on the final hole.

That shot, which finished ten feet away, is the one we tend to remember most – understandably so.

However, the downhill putt he left himself was no picnic.

Perhaps knowing he’d at least be in a play-off even if he missed relieved some of the pressure, but only a smidgen.

Hole it and he’d become the first Briton to slip on the coveted Green Jacket – and hole it he did.

From memory, a little celebration jig may have followed…

7. Justin Leonard, 1999 Ryder Cup, 17th hole, The Country Club

It was some putt, as much as it can be painful to relive – for European fans at least.

Leonard, just like his opponent Jose Maria Olazabal, was on the wrong side of a sloping green, 40 feet away.

The American’s putt hit the cup with some speed – and dropped.

Cue wild celebrations, controversial ones in fact, as the US regained the Ryder Cup.

8. Seve Ballesteros, 1984 Open Championship, 18th hole, St Andrews

More last-hole drama at the ‘Home of Golf’.

It’s not so much the circa 15 foot putt that people remember, but the jubilant jig that followed.

It looked like it might stay out, before taking the right-to-left break and dying into the cup.

It was the great Spaniard’s second Claret Jug.

There are plenty of better shots in Seve’s extensive archives, but you could watch this putt every day.

9. Tiger Woods, 2001 Players Championship, 17th hole, TPC Sawgrass

Ok, so it’s another tramliner – but this one surely deserves a place in the top 13.

We’re breaking our own rules, too, in listing a putt that did not come at the business end of the tournament.

However, this was a one-in-a-million putt from the great American.

From where he was on the famous island green, a three-putt would have been more than acceptable.

There was a ridge to contend with, as well as the breaks, yet he worked it all out to perfection.

In fact, it’s worth watching just to see how Woods prowls the green in that manner of his to find the line.

What a putt.

10. Sam Torrance, 1985 Ryder Cup, 18th hole, The Belfry

What relief – a European victory at last.

One of the highlights of the 1985 Ryder Cup was Torrance’s 22-footer on the final hole, a putt that sealed victory against Andy North and sparked wild celebrations.

It was not a putt that needed to drop, such was the position of the match. But it was an iconic moment nonetheless.

It was the first time the Americans had been beaten since 1957.

11. Hale Irwin, 1990 US Open, 18th hole, Medinah Country Club

You don’t tend to see a lot of running around on a golf course.

In 1990, however, Hale Irwin went on a pretty lengthy jog round the green after dropping a huge putt.

It forced a play-off with Mike Donald, which he won the next day to claim his third US Open title.

12. Payne Stewart, 1999 US Open, 18th hole, Pinehurst

There’s a statue at Pinehurst which depicts the moment Payne Stewart celebrated holing the winning putt at the 1999 US Open.

It’s an image that’s etched in the mind of golf fans: Stewart standing on one foot, right fist clenched, and raised high in the air.

It was the late American’s second US Open title and third Major in total.

13. Adam Scott, 2013 US Masters, 18th hole, Augusta National

There’s a place in our top 13 for a man who’s often struggled with his flat stick.

The Australian finally got the job done on the Major stage in 2013 – and he can thank his putter, because it came good when it mattered.

On the 72nd hole, Scott rolled in a 25-footer. It did its best to escape, but thankfully for this wonderful ball-striker, it didn’t.

Scott’s 15-footer to clinch the Green Jacket at the second extra hole wasn’t bad either.

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