A Quick Nine: Which putts are the most clutch in golf history?

Payne Stewart
Getty Images
There's no denying that Payne Stewart's putt to win the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst is one of the best in golf history.
By
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer
PGA.com

Series: A Quick Nine

Which putt was the most clutch in golf history?

That's the question we asked our PGA.com Facebook friends to answer for this week's, 'A Quick Nine,' feature. While there were endless putts to choose from, here are the nine that stuck out most in your minds.

9. Hale Irwin in the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah. Needing a birdie on the final hole to force a tie, Irwin holed an unthinkable 45-footer and ran around the green in a, "victory lap," -- though the victory would have to wait until the next day. Still tied after an 18-hole playoff with Mike Donald, Irwin birdied the first hole of sudden death to be become the oldest champion in U.S. Open history at the age of 45.

Facebook fan quote:

"Let us not forget Hale Irwin's putt on the 72nd hole in the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah... and the high fives around the green!" -- Steve Medema

8. Tiger Woods in the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla. It may have only been a 6-footer for birdie, but it was one Woods needed in order to force a playoff with Bob May. As we expected in those days, Woods made the putt and went on to win the tournament.

Facebook fan quote:

"Tiger Woods putt on 18 at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla to force a playoff with Bob May. One of the best head-to-head match ups in golf history!" -- John Kuczeski

7. Davis Love III at Winged Foot in the 1997 PGA Championship. It's still hard to imagine that the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain only has one major win. But, if you're going to do it once, you may as well do it in style. You'd think that a 5-shot victory would make for an anticlimactic finish, but that wasn't the case at Winged Foot, where Love holed a 15-foot birdie putt at the last with a rainbow overhead, symbolic of his father -- the late Davis Love Jr. -- who was a renowned PGA Professional.

Facebook fan quote:

"Davis Love III putt on No. 18 at the 1997 PGA Championship/rainbow in the sky." -- John Kuczeski

6. Constantino Rocca at St. Andrews in the 1995 Open Championship. This was golf's version of a Hail Mary for the Italian golfer. Needing a birdie at the last to force a playoff with John Daly, Rocca left himself in the toughest spot on the hole for his third shot -- 60 feet from the hole, sitting in the Valley of Sin. Incredibly, he made the putt, leading to an unbelievable outpouring of emotions. However, he would go on to lose the playoff.

Facebook fan quotes:

"Rocca on No. 18 at the Old Course in 1995 to force a playoff with John Daly." -- Dan Trotta

"Costantino Rocco: 1995 British Open to tie John Daly and push it to a playoff." -- Blake Pawluk

5. Tiger Woods on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass in the 2001 Players Championship. From the back of the green, Woods was left with a 60-foot, downhill, triple-breaker for birdie. As the ball crept closer and closer to the hole, announcer Gary Koch kept saying the words, "Better than most," before it dropped in and Tiger started upper-cutting the air on the way to his only Players win to date.

Facebook fan quotes:

"The sickest one has to be Tiger Woods at the 2001 Players Championship. 17th hole at Sawgrass, double breaker. It really doesn't get any better then that." -- Leo Chuck Donohue

"Better than most... better than most... better than most." -- Brennan Swanson

4. Jack Nicklaus on No. 17 at Augusta National in the 1986 Masters. It was certainly the most famous Masters of all time with a 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus winning the last of his six green jackets. But, he couldn't have done it without the remarkable final round that included an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 17 to take the lead. Before the putt even dropped, Nicklaus raised his putter because he knew it was in.

Facebook fan quotes:

"By far... Jack's putt on No. 17 in the 1986 Masters." -- Tracy Matthews

"Jack's LEGENDARY putt in the 1986 Masters!" -- Nathan Burgess

3. Tiger Woods on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines in the 2008 U.S. Open. We all know the back story here -- Woods was pretty much playing on a broken leg, but wasn't going to miss this U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, one of his favorite courses in the world. Rocco Mediate was in the clubhouse with a one-shot lead, as Woods played the final hole needing a birdie to force a playoff. After surveying the putt from every angle, Woods stepped up to the 15-footer and knocked it in. The crowd, Tiger and then-caddie Steve Williams went bonkers when it dropped. The next day, Woods would slip past Mediate in 19 holes of a playoff.

Facebook fan quotes:

"Tiger on 18 at Torrey Pines! He is the man!" -- El E Trep

"Tiger's birdie putt to force playoff in the U.S. Open 2008." -- Sean Wright

"Tiger's putt during the 2008 U.S. Open -- 15 feet to force playoff with Rocco Mediate." -- Weston Soto

2. Payne Stewart in the 1999 U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Just months before his death in a horrible plane crash, Stewart left golf fans around the world with one putt we'd never forget. With the rain falling down on an early June evening at Pinehurst, Stewart holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the tournament on Father's Day. His reaction with the fist in the air is iconic.

Facebook fan quotes:

"Hard to top Payne Stewart's putt!" -- Brian Wetzel

"Payne Stewart US OPEN!" -- Bow Lee

"Payne Stewart U.S. Open, nuff said." -- Jakob D. Patch

"Payne Stewart without a doubt in the U.S. Open!' -- Travis Wilson

"Payne Stewart on the 72nd hole at Pinehurst to win the 1999 US Open. The most pure and clutch putt I have witnessed." -- Bill Fox

1. Justin Leonard at Brookline in the 1999 Ryder Cup. Whether you think Leonard's 45-footer that clinched a U.S. victory in the 1999 Ryder Cup is the best clutch putt of all time or not, there's no denying it's one of the most memorable putts in the history of the game.

Facebook fan quotes:

"Justin Leonard's BOMB in the Ryder Cup!" -- Dan Nygard

"Justin Leonard's Ryder Cup clinching putt." -- Eric Sedransk

"Justin Leonard at Brookline." -- Chris Laird

"Leonard's putt at Ryder Cup -- amazing way to cap the comeback." -- Rob Cinco

"Justin Leonard in the 1999 Ryder Cup at Brookline. He had a match, team and country on his back, not to mention it was about a 45-footer." -- Sammy Wammy Russell 


Comments

partee62

There was also Ben Crenshaws sentimental Masters putt to winon the weekend his coach had died.

ludwig66

"Stewart holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win the tournament on Father's Day. "

That's incorrect, it was a par putt. He hit his tee shot in the rough and laid up on his second. He needed par to win.

lseward

I agree with you Allen. I do think the Tiger hype is a bit much at times, however, he earned it by winning in miraculous ways, including great putts. By the way, do not believe his putt was number one either.

printman4177

Hey Rick, agree with your assessment of David Tom's putt to win the PGA over Mickelson. Only thing is, the 18th at the Atlanta Athletic Club is a par 4. He laid up trying to get it up and down (which he did) for par to win

hauserhouse

Here's the definition of a clutch putt.
- You need a birdie on 18 to win.
- 18 is a par 5.
- You decide to lay up.
- It's a major.
- The birdie putt is a 20 footer.
- You drain it dead middle.
So, David Toms' 20 footer to beat Phil and win the 2001 PGA is it for me.
Maybe the softest hands ever to putt on the PGA.
Geaux Tigers!

allenspage

I agree with Dan that there have been a number of great golfers who've made amazing double/triple break putts. . . the difference lies in the adoration of the golf/sports media and their incessant hype for Tiger, although I believe he was the most consistent "clutch" players for many years.
How in blazes else would he win as many tournaments otherwise?

russell89

Woods has to be the best clutch putter I've ever seen.I remember Rocco at the 2008 US open watching Woods putting on the last green.. saying..."I just knew he would get that putt.

The most memorable or disappointing putt for me was Tom Watson's missed putt to win the British open at Turnberry in 2010.

I was surprised to read yesterday that Woods was the 2nd most disliked athlete in the US..I would say the most loved golfer..must be Tom Watson..a true gentleman of the game.

robday63

Jack's long putt on the 16th hole in the final round of the 1975 Masters was a clutch putt!!

lseward

Don't you just love haters like Dan?

leemeade

Don't know how many of these are truly clutch. Not like a broken leg, or worse, was waiting for the wrong outcome. Memorable, of course.
I think Mickelson's putt to win his first Masters and major would be the one for me. Just the look of sheer relief, and yes, surprise, that this time it made it to the bottom of the cup. Yep.

jtneve

How about Bobby Jones' 40 foot breaking putt on the 18th hole to win the 1930 US Open on his way to the Grand Slam.

jreese7

In my lifetime, Justin Leonard Ryder Cup Put at Brookline, MA. That will be his greatest PGA moment. One he will likely never forget.

dlewisfl

Sorry, "Tiger Woods on No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass in the 2001 Players Championship" was in no way, shape or form a "clutch" putt. A great putt, yes; a "clutch" putt, no. He still had 19 holes to play in the event, he didn't need to make it at the time. How many other golfers have holed a MUST MAKE putt on the final hole and received no mention - because their name isn't Tiger Woods?!? How many other golfers have holed 60'+ putts with a double-break in the middle of a tournament? Plenty! An absolutely ridiculous choice, you would think the PGA of America would know better.

richie4.h

Where is O'Meara @ the '98 Masters? He never held the lead until that final moment on the 72nd hole. It doesn't get any more 'clutch' than that.

kingmeucci

Payne was a Patent Made Look at what ol' School Golfers looked like !! He Kept that Look for New Day Golfers ? that was his way paying homage to the game of Golf !!