What makes a great putt? Firstly, longer does not necessarily mean better. When debating the best putts of all time, you have to consider what’s been at stake. For example, when Tiger Woods holed that 15-footer on the 18th at Torrey Pines in 2008, the US Open was on the line. Had it missed, Rocco Mediate would have won – simple. That, for us, is a great putt – holing that must make under the greatest pressure. No more spoilers. Here are our 10 greatest putts of all time.
Costantino Rocca, The Open, St Andrews, 1995
A huge putt, length-wise and given what was at stake – the Claret Jug. John Daly was in at -6 and he must have felt tempted to light a cigar when Costantino Rocca chunked his pitch shot on 18, which left the Italian needing to hole a 65-foot putt from the Valley of Sin.
Maybe it was because the pressure had been lifted by what had happened earlier, for up stepped Rocca and sent the ball tracking towards the cup. When it dropped, so did Rocca, down to his knees as 50,000 fans cheered.
Sadly, it was to be the final high for Rocca, as his American rival came through a four-hole playoff to take the title. The Italian would later describe himself as the “most famous runner-up in the world”.
Sandy Lyle, The Masters, Augusta National, 1988
A lot of people remember the fairway bunker shot on 18, but let’s talk about the putt that followed, too. Yes, that 7-iron was pure class, a perfect strike that pitched past the hole before catching the slope and rolling back to 10 feet.
However, this is Augusta National, where players can – and often do – three-putt from three feet. The Scot still had a lot of work to do with a slippery downhill putt made two, maybe three times as hard given that there was a Green Jacket on the line.
Lyle judged it to be just right of center, with pace being absolutely crucial. He rolled it in with the minimum of fuss, raised his arms in the air, and performed that impromptu victory dance.
Payne Stewart, US Open, Pinehurst No. 2, 1999
It’s the final round of the US Open and Payne Stewart finds himself locked in an epic battle with fellow American, Phil Mickelson. It’s the man in the plus-fours who has the momentum after holing a 25-foot putt for par at 16 and a four-footer for birdie at the 17th.
However, after Stewart is forced to layup on the final hole, a playoff looks most likely. He’s going to need to pull something special out of the bag again to get this done in regulation.
Something Stewart has in his favor is the US Open title that he already has on his resume. He studies his uphill 15-footer intently, takes two practice strokes – and drains it. What a putt. What a celebration.
Tiger Woods, US Open, Torrey Pines, 2008
Tiger Woods arrived at the 18th hole needing a birdie to force a playoff. It was a par-5, so Rocco Mediate would have been expecting one. In fact, given Woods had eagled the final hole in the previous round, he may well have feared losing out altogether.
However, when the injured Woods (this was the Major in which he was effectively playing on one leg) found the fairway bunker off the tee, which was followed by a poor layup, Mediate could have been forgiven for rehearsing a victory speech.
His third was played to the right of the green, which left Woods a 15-footer that would break slightly to his left. Woods has always thrived in such pressure moments. The putt had pace, but it grabbed enough of the hole to disappear, which sparked a passionate celebration. On Monday he won the 18-hole playoff.
Justin Leonard, Ryder Cup, Brookline, 1999
Let’s put the controversial celebrations that followed this moment to one side and focus on the putt itself. Justin Leonard was tied with Jose Maria Olazabal on the final day, but so far away from the hole on the 17th that he was hidden away in some shadows.
However, it was from the shadows some 45 feet away that the ball emerged, travelling up a ridge at speed straight into the cup. Leonard’s monster putt all but ensured victory for the hosts.
Had the 1997 Open champion’s tramliner not hit the hole, it would have travelled at least 10 feet by, but let’s not be too critical about that. As for the celebrations, well, that’s a different story.
Hinako Shibuno, Women’s British Open, Woburn Marquess, 2019
Hinako Shibuno produced one of the best-ever back nine holes in Open history in 2019, coming home in just 31 strokes to deny Lizette Salas on a thrilling afternoon at Woburn.
The Japanese star arrived on the 436-yard par-4 18th tied with Salas on -17, the latter safely in the clubhouse with a 65. If she was nervous, she disguised it well, smiling from start to finish.
After splitting the fairway with her drive, Shibuno hit a fine approach to 20 feet. She could have been forgiven for lagging it up to tap-in range given that this was her first Major Championship. However, there were no signs of nerves, with her birdie putt hitting the back of the cup with plenty of pace to give her an incredible victory.
Cameron Smith, The Open, St Andrews, 2022
We simply had to make room for one of the best two-putts you’re ever likely to see. Cameron Smith put on a putting exhibition at the 150th Open Championship, but the destination of the Claret Jug was still very much in the balance by the time he arrived on the notoriously difficult 17th hole.
When the Aussie found himself off the green and facing the famous – and devious – Road Hole bunker, his chances of making a four looked slim. The odds of a par looked even slimmer when he pulled out the putter. Was he playing for a five?
The putt would need to flirt with the bunker if Smith was going to have a chance of making the up-and-down. And it did, although it was judged to perfection, as was the 12-foot par putt that followed. He would win The Open by a single shot.
Seve Ballesteros, The Open, St Andrews, 1984
A gentle rock of the shoulders from the great Spaniard provided the defining moment of The Open in 1984 and sparked one of the most iconic celebrations in the history of the game.
Seve regained the Claret Jug when Tom Watson failed to hole his second shot at the last, although that’s not to say the finish was an anti-climax, for Ballesteros served up a truly memorable moment on 18 shortly before the American’s hopes faded.
The birdie putt he left himself after a delightful pitch was some 12 feet, with a decent amount of right-to-left movement. For a moment it appeared that the ball might hang on the edge of the cup, but it disappeared from view to trigger that famous celebration.
Phil Mickelson, The Masters, Augusta National, 2004
There was nothing spectacular about Phil Mickelson’s birdie putt on the final hole of the 2004 Masters. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that had it been any other player who had made it, it’s one that probably wouldn’t feature on this list.
However, ‘Lefty’ had a monkey on his back that he was desperate to get rid of, and that tag of ‘Best player to have never won a Major Championship’. Would Mickelson have gone on to win multiple Majors had this putt not dropped? Perhaps, but it may also have left some scar tissue.
There’s no such thing as an easy putt at Augusta National. Mickelson had 20 feet left, a birdie for the win. “It was on line the whole time,” he said afterwards. “It had a chance the whole time. It just had to hang in there, will it hang in there, will it hang in there, will it hang in there, those last four feet.”
It did hang on in there and Mickelson was finally a Major champion.
Suzann Pettersen, Solheim Cup, Gleneagles PGA Centenary, 2019
In 2019, Suzann Pettersen defeated Marina Alex 1UP to give Europe their first Solheim Cup victory over America since 2013. She may have been a multiple Major champion, but on that 18th green she faced the biggest putt of her career.
That putt was just seven feet, the type she would normally hole with her eyes closed. Solheim Cups, however, aren’t regular tournaments, and Solheim Cup Sundays aren’t your normal tournament Sundays. This was for Europe, for her teammates and the thousands of expectants fans.
Pressure? What pressure? The Norwegian rolled the ball home dead center.
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Michael has been with Golf Monthly since 2008. As a multimedia journalist, he has also worked for The Football Association, where he created content to support the men's European Championships, The FA Cup, London 2012, and FA Women's Super League. As content editor at Foremost Golf, Michael worked closely with golf's biggest equipment manufacturers, and has developed an in-depth knowledge of this side of the industry. He's now a regular contributor, covering instruction, equipment and feature content. Michael has interviewed many of the game's biggest stars, including six world number ones, and has attended and reported on many Major Championships and Ryder Cups. He's a member of Formby Golf Club.
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