A good putt can change a tournament and even a career. Here, we run through 10 of the most significant strokes in the history of the game
The 10 Most Important Putts Of All Time
Critical moments in golf tournaments tend to happen on the putting surfaces.
A player can be immaculate from tee to green but if they can’t get the ball into the hole effectively with the flat stick, they’re unlikely to contend for the victory.
Related: Golf Monthly putting tips
Over the years there have been many pivotal moments on putting surfaces around the world and here below we select 10 of the very most significant strokes ever made.
Some were simply tournament winners, others total game changers but all have left an indelible impression on golfing history
Tiger Woods – 18th hole, 2008 US Open final round, Torrey Pines
Woods had undergone arthroscopic knee surgery two days after The Masters and had suffered two stress fractures to his left tibia.
He was in visible pain during the tournament at Torrey Pines, often doubling over after hitting shots.
But somehow he battled through to lead after three rounds.
On the Sunday, Rocco Mediate moved ahead, though, as Woods faltered.
After dropping shots on the 13th and 15th, Tiger needed to birdie the 72nd to force a play-off.
From a seemingly impossible position in the rough, he played an incredible wedge shot to give himself a chance.
From 15 feet he drained a left-to-right putt over a bumpy green.
Famous for his clutch putting, this was Tiger’s finest stroke.
He punched the air with both fists, the pain in his leg momentarily gone.
The following day he beat Mediate in the 18-hole play-off to claim his 14th, and possibly final, Major.
Jack Nicklaus – 17th hole, 1986 US Masters final round, Augusta National
The Golden Bear was 46 years old and hadn’t won on the PGA Tour for two years.
Although he moved to within striking distance after a third-round 69, few gave Jack a chance.
But on the final back nine, Nicklaus made his move. He birdied the 9th, 10th and 11th and people started to take notice.
He picked up another on the 13th and then eagled the 15th, eliciting thunderous cheers.
He followed with birdie on 16 and set up another chance on 17.
Just after Seve’s hopes drowned in the water on the 15th, Jack rolled his putt home and lofted his putter in celebration.
He parred the last to claim his 18th and final Major title.
Justin Leonard – 17th hole, 1999 Ryder Cup singles, Brookline
Heading into the final day at Brookline, the USA trailed 10-6 and looked set to lose a third straight Ryder Cup.
But they won the first six matches to go 12-10 ahead.
By the time the ninth match, featuring Justin Leonard and Jose Maria Olazabal, reached the 17th green, the Americans were 14-12 in front and needed just half a point to win.
Leonard and Olazabal were all square and both had long putts for birdie.
Leonard went first and holed out from 40 feet, sparking frenzied celebrations from the US team, who ran onto the green and across the line of Olazabal’s putt.
Seve Ballesteros – 18th hole, 1984 Open Championship final round, St Andrews
Tom Watson was bidding for a third straight Open triumph in 1984 and was looking to equal Harry Vardon’s record of six victories.
He was in pole position with one round to go, but a fiery Spaniard had other ideas.
Seve Ballesteros played an excellent back nine and was tied with Watson with two to play.
After a fine par on the Road Hole 17th, Seve had a birdie putt on the last to secure victory.
It looked at first as though he had over borrowed on his right-to-left 15-footer, but the ball turned just enough, hovered on the edge of the cup and dropped.
The resulting celebration has gone down as the most iconic in golf’s history.
Phil Mickelson – 18th hole, 2004 US Masters final round, Augusta National
Mickelson was owner of that much- unwanted ‘best player never to have won a Major’ tag going into the 2004 Masters.
He had been a runner-up three times and had been third five times.
Lefty began the final round in a tie for the lead but struggled to the turn in 38 as Ernie Els took to the front.
But Mickelson put his foot to the floor, and with birdies at the 12th, 13th, 14th and 16th he was tied for the lead with the South African going into the final hole.
He played a good approach that finished 20 feet above the cup.
He saw the line, settled over the putt, stroked it calmly and rolled the ball home for a birdie and his first Major title.
Ian Poulter – 18th hole, 2012 Ryder Cup Saturday afternoon four-balls, Medinah
Europe looked to be in serious trouble towards the end of Saturday afternoon, 10-4 down with just two games on the course.
But Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia scraped a win, leaving Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy a chance to reduce the deficit to 10-6.
Playing Dustin Johnson and Jason Dufner, Poults birdied the 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th and the Europeans came to the last 1up.
Dufner fired the best approach and was able to secure a birdie, leaving Poulter a 15ft putt to win.
The ball never looked anywhere but in from the moment it left the putter and Poulter let out a triumphant roar – the catalyst for the greatest comeback in golf history.
Graeme McDowell – 16th hole, 2010 Ryder Cup singles, Celtic Manor
After a dominant display on the Saturday at Celtic Manor, the 2010 Ryder Cup looked as good as won for Europe as they went into the singles 9.5-6.5 ahead.
But the US rallied and the contest came down to the final game on the course – Graeme McDowell against Hunter Mahan.
McDowell was 3up through 11 but Mahan won the 12th and 15th to reduce the deficit to one.
On the 16th, though, McDowell played a superb approach, giving himself the chance to go dormy 2up.
The putt was a 15-foot tester along the spine of the green.
Everyone’s nerves were jangling but GMac stayed cool and rolled it home.
He then won the 17th and Europe regained the Cup.
Payne Stewart – 18th hole, 1999 US Open final round, Pinehurst
Stewart’s duel with Phil Mickelson is one of the most memorable in Major golf.
On the 16th green, it looked likely Mickelson would take a two-shot lead, but Stewart holed a monster par putt and Mickelson missed from short range.
Stewart then birdied 17 to take the lead and left himself an 18ft par putt on the last to win his third Major.
He drained it and punched the sky, stretching out his leg behind him – an image now immortalised in bronze at Pinehurst.
Just months later, Stewart was killed in a plane crash.
Sandy Lyle – 18th hole, 1988 US Masters final round, Augusta National
Everyone remembers Sandy Lyle’s tremendous bunker shot on the 18th, but just as impressive was the putt he holed after it to win the US Masters.
Lyle’s 7-iron from the sand ended ten feet away, leaving a devilish downhiller.
Hole it and he would become the first Brit to win The Masters; miss it and he would face a play-off.
It disappeared below ground and his victory began a great run of Masters success for British players.
Philip Walton – 18th hole, 1995 Ryder Cup singles, Oak Hill
Playing Jay Haas in the singles, second from last, the fate of the Ryder Cup fell to Philip Walton, who was probably the least experienced member of the European team.
At 3up with three to play, he lost the 16th when Haas holed a bunker shot and then lost the 17th, missing a three-footer.
On the last, he was visibly nervous.
After a series of errors down the final hole by both players, Walton found himself with two putts for a bogey to win the match.
On paper, it may seem easy to lag a putt from 15 feet, but with the world watching he could hardly take the putter back.
However, he trickled the ball to gimme range and Bernard Gallacher’s team won by the narrowest margin.
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