Tiger Woods and the 25 Most Ridiculous Putts in Golf History
A hot putter can make up for a lot of things.
If you can make the putt, a chip that lands 20 feet away from the hole looks the same as one that stops six inches away.
Conversely, few things make up for a cold putter. On tour, it is a very rare occurrence that one of the week's worst putters contends, let alone wins.
The great putters are memorable. That makes sense; they are the great players.
Generally, the great putts are the ones that we remember, although there are exceptions to that rule.
25. Doug Sanders: 1970 British Open
You have to wait until the 50 second mark of the video to see the putt. When you do, you will see perhaps the most painful, and most identifiable shot in golf history.
As far as three-foot putts go, this was about as tough as they come. Three-feet, downhill, with break. Also, had it gone in, he would have won the British Open.
It didn't go in, and put him in an 18-hole playoff against Jack Nicklaus. Sanders played with Nicklaus until the last hole. There, the Golden Bear made an eight-foot birdie putt to win.
What makes this putt stand out was not the stage or how short it was. No, watch Sanders' reaction to it.
In the hacker's world, it's not at all uncommon to miss a short putt and then hit it in the hole before it has stopped rolling.
On tour, that's a penalty shot. Actually, it's a penalty shot anywhere, just not often counted in hacker's golf.
Sanders came within inches of doing that before pulling his club away.
Watching highlights of that putt, it's hard for anyone with a heart to not feel bad for Sanders. It's impossible for anyone who's ever played golf to not relate to him.
24. David Duval: 1999 Bob Hope
The putt itself wasn't all that superb. Sure, any putt that goes in is a good putt, but Duval's putt on the 18th hole of the Bob Hope in 1999 would not have been that great a putt for an amateur to make, let alone a guy who was one of the top golfers in the world.
Part of what makes his putt great was that he needed it to win, as he ended up defeating Steve Pate by a single shot that week.
But even at that, the Bob Hope is an early season tour event. While any win is prestigious, it the Bob Hope is a far cry from Augusta. So why is this putt so meaningful?
Because this putt was his 59th shot of the round. His 59 was the third of all time on tour and one of only five in history.
I don't care if it's a three-inch putt; any putt for a 59 that also wins a tournament qualifies as ridiculous.
23. Costantino Rocco: 1995 British Open
The 1995 British Open will best be remembered for golfers overcoming unexpected adversity.
The 18th hole at St. Andrews is not the most imposing hole in the world.
While you never want to be trailing by a shot entering the final hole of a major championship, Costantino Rocca had to feel good about his chances at making a birdie to force a playoff with John Daly.
Rocca had to really like his chances when he drove the ball just short of the green. Then, he hit a shot that any golfer of any skill can relate to.
He flubbed his second shot. In doing so, he left himself well below the green in the "Valley of Sin." Making his shot even worse was that the pin was set on the tier of a double-tiered green.
Rocca then stepped up and in a bubble, made maybe the best putt in the history of golf to force a playoff with Daly.
But, we don't live in a bubble and that's why this putt is not significantly higher on the list.
Despite Rocca's tremendous ability to shake off a horrible chip and execute a perfect putt, he was trounced by Daly in the ensuing four-hole playoff, losing by four shots.
22. Jean Van De Velde: 1999 British Open
Everything Jean Van de Velde did on the 18th hole at the 1999 British Open is ridiculous.
Needing only a double-bogey to win, Van de Velde hit driver off of the tee. Instead of pitching out from the rough, he got bolder and hit a long iron.
There, he caught a bad break when the ball hit the grandstands over the Bary Burn and bounced on the short side of it, into some thick rough.
When he chipped his third shot in the burn, things went from ridiculous to surreal. After standing in the burn for several minutes, deciding whether or not he was going to try an impossible shot from the water, he took a drop.
Two shots later, Van de Velde was on the green, eight-feet from the hole, needing to make his putt to save a triple-bogey and earn a spot in a playoff with Paul Lawrie and Justin Leonard.
He proceeded to make that eight-footer, earning his way in that playoff. Like Rocca, he lost the playoff. So a claim could be made that neither should be included on this list, as all they really did was grant themselves a stay of execution.
There is a lot of truth in that, but what happened in the playoff of both tournaments is irrelevant.
What both of those guys did is what amazes me the most about pro golfers.
We are used to seeing them do great things on the golf course. These are the very best in the World at what they do, and they both had moments where they played like hackers.
But a hacker wouldn't have made the long putt from the Valley of Sin. A hacker wouldn't have made the eight-footer after experiencing something that had to be worst than his worst nightmares could ever be.
21. Scott Hoch: 1989 Masters
Nick Faldo is one of the best golfers of all time. As great as he was, there was an element of luck in some of his greatest triumphs.
In 1996, he won the Masters when Greg Norman blew a six-shot final round lead and shot a 78. In 1990's Masters, he beat Raymond Floyd in a playoff.
1989 was when he won his first Green Jacket. On the first playoff hole, all Scott Hoch had to do was make a two-foot putt and the Green Jacket was his.
He didn't make it; he actually left himself a longer putt to keep the playoff going. He did make that, but Faldo beat him on the last hole.
At the 1987 PGA Championship, Hoch needed a two-putt from 10-away to earn a spot in a playoff. He didn't execute there either.
We've all heard the punchline. "Hoch rhymes with choke."
I know that Hoch never the most popular golfer on tour, but watching things like this consistently happen to one player can get tough.
He is on this list for basically the same reason as Sanders. Generally, people on this list will be here because they made a great putt or a series of great putts, but ridiculous doesn't always mean good.
20. 2001 US Open
The first 71 holes of the 2001 US Open at Southern Hills were a display of the best golfers in the World playing in its toughest tournament.
When the 72nd hole came around, the US Open turned in to a battle of 25 handicappers.
Mark Brooks was first when he three-putting the final green. In doing so, he seemingly shot himself out of the tournament.
Not to be outdone was the final pairing of Retief Goosen and Stewark Cink, ironically two of the most consistent golfers of their era.
Cink barely missed a putt that he thought would have put him in a playoff. He then missed the comeback putt of just under two-feet. That put him one stroke behind Brooks for the clubhouse lead. All Goosen had to do was make a short putt and the the US Open was his.
He didn't make it, although he did compose himself well enough to make the next one.
The putt that Cink thought would have put him in a playoff would have won him the tournament outright. The one that he thought was meaningless would have put him in the playoff.
Had Brooks two-putted the eighth green, he would have won the tournament. As it was, he had a Monday date with Goosen.
Goosen shook off his frustration and beat Brooks in the playoff by two strokes.
The 2001 US Open is somewhat overlooked for how great and unique a tournament it actually was. But three professional golfers three-putting the same green in a major is most definitely ridiculous.
19. Mike Weir: 2003 Masters
This is another underrated and often overlooked tournament in golf history, which is unfortunate.
Weir led for most of the final round, but he was eventually tied by Len Mattiace, who shot a 65 in the final round.
On the 18th hole, Weir needed a birdie to win and a par to tie. On the 18th, the pin is usually set in the front right portion of the green on Sunday, making birdies more likely.
On this day, it was set in the back. Weir needed to make a two-putt from the bottom portion of the green to force a playoff with Mattiace. If he didn't, it would have been the worst possible time for his bogey of the day.
When his first putt stopped seven feet from the hole, things didn't look great. He managed to shake that frustration off and make the seven-footer.
Ironically, the sudden-death playoff was where Weir made his first bogey of the day. Fortunately for him, Mattiace made a double-bogey on that same hole. With that, Weir won his first and to date, only major.
None of that would have happened had he not made his seven foot putt. A putt doesn't have to be extremely long to be ridiculous.
18. Ben Curtis: 2003 British Open
The ridiculousness of this putt can be argued.
While it did win him a British Open, he didn't know that at the time. There were a few groups behind him and Ben Curtis did not appear to be a true contender, at least not at the time of this putt.
Curtis didn't know what was happening behind him at virtually the same time that he made his putt. He certainly didn't know what was going to happen afterwards.
Even throwing all of that away, it wasn't that long of a putt. So why is it ridiculous?
It wasn't that long, but it wasn't a tap in. But if this was Tiger Woods or Vijay Singh making this putt, it wouldn't be nearly as ridiculous.
Curtis could not have thought that this putt was for the win. Given the oddities of what happened behind him, Curtis could not have thought that this putt was for anything more than maybe second place.
For Woods or Singh, the only thing that really mattered was the win, so finishing in third was essentially the same as finishing in second.
Curtis was nowhere near as secure, coming into this tournament with a World ranking of 396. In majors, one shot can make a big difference in placement and in turn, money.
Even if he thought that this putt just gave him a third-place finish, it was clutch.
The win that it eventually gave him allowed him to have exemptions into 2006, where he won two regular tour events.
17. Stewart Cink: 2009 British Open
This putt is similar to Curtis' putt in a lot of ways.
While it was a nice putt, it was far from a bomb with a lot of break. Also, while Cink's reaction told us that it meant something to him, he only won this tournament because Tom Watson bogeyed the same hole a few groups later.
Cink was also in a similar boat to Woods or Singh in the previous slide. While he was not that good, his spot on tour was not in doubt.
But it gets included on this list and one spot ahead of Curtis for a few reasons.
The first is history. While they didn't know it at the time, Curtis' putt won him the tournament outright. Had he missed it and everything else remained the same (admittedly a big if), Curtis still could have won the tournament in a playoff.
Cink didn't have that luxury. His put needed to drop for him to even be a part of a playoff. If Cink didn't make that putt, Watson still wins this tournament.
Cink's was also a slightly tougher putt. There was more break to it and it was downhill.
Lastly, Cink had a reputation. He wasn't quite on Phil Mickelson's pre-2004 level of "best to have never won a major," but he was an accomplished golfer.
Making this putt allowed him to get that monkey off of his back before it ever climbed on. Cink will always be the secondary story of this event, but he deserves all the credit in the World for winning it.
16. Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus: 1977 British Open
The Duel in the Sun will go down as one of the best British Open's ever played. Watson and Nicklaus were paired together for the final 36-holes and by the end of the tournament, they were more than 10 shots ahead of anyone else.
Watson entered the final hole up by one shot. Nicklaus hit a terrible drive but managed to hit his second shot on the green, albeit 40-feet away.
It appeared as though that shot would be a mere afterthought, as Watson's second shot was only two feet from the hole.
Watson knew what would happen next, as Nicklaus made his 40-footer. Now, Watson needed to make his short putt to avoid a playoff.
On the surface, making a two foot putt doesn't seem too daunting. But as we have seen a few times on this list, a two-footer with one of the greatest championships that the game has to offer on the line is far from a gimme.
When he made the putt, Watson solidified himself as one of the best golfers in the World. This was second major of 1977 and third overall of what would eventually be eight.
This exchange on the final green ended one of the greatest exchanges that two golfers have ever had. Over the final two rounds, Nicklaus shot a 65 and 66, while Watson shot two 65's.
In the end, the whole thing was pretty ridiculous.
14. Johnny Miller: 1973 US Open
Say what you will about Johnny Miller and his commentary, but this round changed the way that US Opens were to be set up.
The USGA takes great pride in the US Open being the toughest tournament in the World. More than that, Oakmont takes similar pride in being the toughest course in America.
So when someone shoots an all-time low round in a major to win a US Open at Oakmont, people are bound to react in a big way.
They did that the following year, setting up the "Massacre at Winged Foot." There, the winning score was seven over par.
But Miller's round in 1973 was special. There wasn't any great putt in this round that was especially ridiculous as his longest putt was a 25-footer.
Instead, this is more of a body of work award, as Miller had only 29 putts on some of the toughest greens in the world.
15. Retief Goosen: 2004 US Open
Retief Goosen gives us another spot on this list occupied by a person who didn't make one fantastic putt, but was consistently great on the greens.
Shinnecock Hills has the toughest greens in the world. No greens have ever been tougher than they were for the 2004 US Open.
The USGA eventually decided to stop watering the greens, making Retief Goosen's performance even more impressive, considering he was in the final pairing.
With how dry those greens were, Goosen might as well have been putting on an ice-skating rink.
To make matters worse, although the crowds were never disrespectful to him, the New York crowds were decidedly behind Phil Mickelson, who was going for his second major of the season.
Goosen silenced the crowd, as he needed only 24 putts to complete his round.
On the 17th green, Mickelson three-putted from five-feet away while Goosen one-putted from a similar distance. That exchange essentially gave the South African his second US Open championship.
Again, it wasn't one putt that was impressive, but I have never watched a more impressive putting performance.
13. Tiger Woods and Bob May: 2000 PGA Championship
It's interesting that most of Tiger's best battles have not been against the other top players of the era. Case in point is the 2000 PGA Championship.
There has never been a golfer better than Woods was in 2000, so for a golfer of Bob May's caliber to give him a fight was shocking.
On the 72nd green, May had a must make putt. At first, it looked short, but it took the break and snuck into the cup. Now, Woods had a short but testy putt that he needed to make to even force a playoff. He did.
Neither putt was especially long, but they were both tough and obvious must makes. They both made their putts and went on to the playoff.
There, Tiger made a truly difficult putt on the first hole. He held on from there, matching May on the remaining three playoff holes to win his third major in a row.
That ended up being the peak of May's fame. He has only one career worldwide win. Tiger went on to be one of the best golfers to ever play.
But on the 72nd green at Valhalla, the two were dead even. May gave Tiger more than he ever wanted that day.
12. Padraig Harrington: 2008 PGA Championship
Immediately after Tiger Woods won the 2008 US Open, he announced that he would have knee surgery that would cause him to miss the remainder of the season.
Included in that was the season's final two majors, the first two of his professional career that he would not participate in.
The question that immediately arose was who would emerge from Tiger's shadow?
Padraig Harrington had won the 2007 British Open with Tiger in the field, and accomplished the same thing the following year without him.
Coming down the stretch, the 2008 PGA Championship was a rehash of the previous year's British Open: Harrington vs. Sergio Garcia.
Tied after 16, Harrington hit a shot to 12-feet away on the par-three 17th hole. Garcia did him one better, hitting his shot to four-feet.
The tables were turned when Harrington made his putt and Garcia missed his, but the tournament was not over.
On the 18th each faced challenging par putts, but Garcia was inside of Harrington. If Harrington missed his, Garcia would need to make his putt to force a playoff, giving himself a shot at redemption.
Harrington made his putt, an 18-footer with break. That rendered Garcia's putt meaningless. Harrington pumped his fist while Garcia could only watch.
To date, this was both Harrington's last major and Garcia's last real chance to win his first.
This exchange cemented Harrington as the best golfer in the months where Tiger did not play.
While Garcia is still young enough to rise again, he may go down as the most well known golfer of all-time to have never won a major. If he does, he can thank this ridiculous exchange for that.
11. Tiger Woods and Ernie Els: 2003 President's Cup
Ernie Els has been one of the few elite golfers of the Tiger Woods era to consistently play well with him. We saw glimpses of that in the 2000 Tournament of Champions and what happened in 2003's President's Cup only sealed Els' fate as a great big money player.
Unlike the Ryder Cup, the President's Cup can not end in a tie. Prior to the tournament, both captains chose a player that they would use in a sudden-death tiebreaker.
Woods and Els were the obvious choices, especially given that the tournament was in Els' home country of South Africa.
The matches did end in a tie and part of that was Woods defeating Els 4 & 3 in their Sunday Singles Match.
Els shook that frustration off and tied Woods on the first two playoff holes. With darkness looming, it appeared as though the third would be the final hole.
Woods and Els both hit poor shots into the green. Tiger lagged his first putt to 12-feet, while Ernie was six-feet away. The ball appeared to be in the International team's court.
Then, Woods buried his 12-foot putt, meaning Els had to make his to avoid losing. He did, and with it the greatest President's Cup in history was complete.
In a show of sportsmanship, the two teams decided to share the cup. In Ryder Cup, the team currently holding the cup wins the tiebreaker. In this case, it would have been the Americans.
It wasn't a major or even an official event, but a lot was riding on it. In the end, everybody walked away happy.
This event could have been the first of many great President's Cups, but it wasn't. The American's have won the last three President's Cups and the Ryder Cup is still the World's top International event.
But none of that changes how ridiculous this exchange was.
10. Mark O'Meara: 1998 Masters
Before 1998, Mark O'Meara was a really good player, but he hadn't won any majors. In 1998, he won the only two that he would win in his career.
The first was the most memorable.
After making a birdie on the 17th hole to tie the lead, O'Meara hit his second-shot on the 18th hole to 20 feet away. A three-way playoff between O'Meara, Fred Couples, and David Duval seemed imminent.
Then, O'Meara made his breaking 20-footer to win the Masters. This ridiculous putt capped a Masters tournament that reminded us all of just how exciting the Masters could be.
1996's Masters was memorable for Greg Norman's choke. By the end of it, it was more like watching a clearly one-sided boxing match.
Tiger Woods' win in the 1997 tournament was historic, but only because of what it meant socially and because of how dominant he was. The final round contained virtually no drama.
The same could not be said about 1998. O'Meara didn't quite have Phil Mickelson's pre-2004 reputation, but he was one of the best golfers in the World and he had yet to win a major.
This putt not only accomplished that, but it restored some of the excitement that had been lost at Augusta for the previous few Masters.
9. Jack Nicklaus: 1975 Masters
2011's Masters marked the 25-year anniversary of Jack Nicklaus' historic 1986 win. Naturally, many people who experienced that tournament said that it was the best tournament ever.
During 2011, CBS also re-aired the final round of the 1975 Masters. Many people who watched that tournament said that it was the most exciting day of golf that anyone had ever seen.
I wasn't alive in 1975 and I was not even a year old in 1986, so I can't really cast a vote here. Both tournaments did produce the same winner.
In a three-way battle with Tom Weiskopf and Johnny Miller, Nicklaus stepped up to the 16th tee, likely needing to make a birdie.
With the traditional Sunday pin location, a birdie can be made on 16, as tee shots can hit the slope and end up close to the hole.
Nicklaus didn't do that. In fact, he left his tee shot 40-feet away. Much like Tiger Woods would do 30 years later on the same hole, Nicklaus made the improbable putt.
The one shot cushion that this ridiculous putt provided Nicklaus ended up being his winning margin.
1975 was the fifth of Nicklaus' six Green Jackets. The sixth is likely to occur down the line.
8. Hale Irwin: 1990 US Open
Hale Irwin can best be remembered for two ridiculous putts.
The first came in 1983, where he whiffed on a short putt in the third round of the British Open. He missed out on a playoff by one-shot.
The Golf Gods evened the score with Irwin in 1990's US Open. There, Irwin made a 45-foot putt to join a playoff with Mike Donald.
Putts like this prove one thing. Yes, these are the best golfers in the world, but there is an element of luck that goes into these kinds of shots.
While it was certainly what he wanted to do, there is no way that Irwin thought that he would make that 45-foot bomb. He did, and when he did, he took a victory lap around the green, giving high-fives to the gallery.
This is the ridiculous putt that should be remembered from Irwin's career.
The next day, Irwin would tie the unheralded Donald in the 18-hole playoff and defeat him on the first hole of sudden death. It was his third and final career major. All of those wins came in the US Open.
So, 1990 gave us a great US Open. In it, one of the best golfers in the World made a challenging putt to force a playoff with a much lesser known player. That playoff ended in a tie. On the ensuing sudden-death playoff hole, the better known player finally won.
I think we have seen a similar script since then.
7. Tiger Woods: 2008 US Open
The putt that Tiger Woods made to force the playoff Rocco Mediate with was nowhere near as challenging as the one that Irwin made to force the playoff with Donald in 1990.
Tiger made a few longer putts the day before that put him in that position, but the one that forced the 18-hole playoff was the most ridiculous of the tournament.
As great as Irwin was, he was not Tiger Woods. The 2008 US Open was at Torrey Pines, a course where Tiger had enjoyed great success in the past.
But he had an obvious knee injury that had kept him from playing at all since the Masters and would eventually leave him out of action until February of 2009. But that hiatus came after the US Open.
Woods needed a birdie on the final hole to force a playoff. Considering that the final hole is a reachable par-five, that doesn't seem too hard.
But Woods left himself no shot at reaching the hole in two. After three shots, he had a challenging putt, but one that could be made.
There, he produced what may be the ultimate "Tiger Moment." His reaction was even more boisterous than normal, and the crowd went crazy.
NBC play-by-play man summed it up with a simple question. "Expect anything different?" Really, did anyone expect anything different? Rocco certainly didn't
Mediate, who was already done simply said, "Unbelievable. I knew he was going to make that." The next day's playoff was just as dramatic, but Tiger eventually pulled it out.
Had Tiger missed his putt, this would still be one of the best tournaments that I have ever watched. But he did make his ridiculous putt. In doing so, he cemented this is as the greatest tournament that I have ever watched. I don't expect any tournament to challenge that title any time soon.
6. Jack Nicklaus: 1986 Masters
The back-nine of the 1986 Masters caused grown men to cry. It caused people to miss flights and change whatever plans they may have had. It's hard to single out one putt from this tournament. Actually, it's impossible, but I can identify two putts that stand out.
The first was an eagle-putt that Nicklaus made on the par-five 15th hole. It was there that Nicklaus went from being a nice story to a legitimate contender. He knew the break on that putt better than anyone who had ever stood on that green.
On the 16th hole, Nicklaus made a birdie after knocking his tee shot to within a few feet. There, to quote Jim Nantz, was where "The Bear came out of hibernation."
Still, he was only tied, and he had some of the best golfers in the world behind him. The clock had to strike midnight at some point, right?
Well, Nicklaus didn't know that. He left himself an 18-foot putt, which he proceeded to make. He now had the lead.
The most ridiculous day of golf history was capped by two of the most ridiculous putts in golf history.
Unless Tiger can at least tie him, Nicklaus is the best golfer to ever play. It's moments like this that cemented that legacy.
If you look at the leaderboard of that tournament, you will see the names of virtually all of the best golfers of that era right behind Nicklaus.
Nobody was interested in them. They all crumbled behind him. These two putts both prove that while it helps, a ridiculous putt does not have to be from a ridiculous length.
5. David Toms: 2001 PGA Championship
The 2001 PGA Championship produced the lowest stroke total for a winner in tournament history. All of the top-three finished completed all four of their rounds in the 60's.
Still, it is a 20-foot par putt that we remember.
David Toms was similar to Mark O'Meara before he won his first major.
He was a good player, just never mistaken as the World's best.
He led Phil Mickelson by one on the final hole, but hit his drive into trouble. After laying up short of the green, Toms chipped to 20-feet away.
With Mickelson on the green an putting for a birdie, Toms was not far from being out of a playoff. He dodged one bullet when Mickelson missed his birdie putt.
When he dodged the second bullet, he simultaneously fired one. His 20-footer went right in the hole, giving Toms his first and to date only career major.
We have seen a few putts of that length to win majors, why was this one so ridiculous?
It was ridiculous because we had seen a nearly identical scene just a little more than two years prior.
4. Payne Stewart: 1999 US Open
Payne Stewart won the 1999 US Open because his putter was spectacular on the final stretch.
Stewart led by one-shot on the final tee. Like Toms, he hit a bad tee shot, forcing him to lay up. Like Toms, he dodged one bullet when his opponent missed a birdie putt.
Finally, like Toms, he dodged a second bullet while firing one of his own, when he made his 15-foot putt to win the tournament.
The reaction is timeless. On the green, he grabbed the face of his beaten opponent and told him that he was about to become a father, which was far more important than any golf tournament.
If the story ended there, the putt that he made would still be timeless. It might be in this very spot on this same list.
Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. Just over four months after making this triumphant 15-foot putt, Stewart died in a plane crash.
When the US Open rolls around every year, highlights of this tournament are shown. It's honestly hard to watch, as it can bring out simultaneous tears and smiles. On its own, the putt was ridiculous. Taking what happened afterwards into account, the whole tournament is surreal.
But shifting back to the David Toms parallels. There is one other thing that these two tournaments had in common.
Remember the golfer that Stewart beat? The same one whose face he grabbed to tell him that he was about to be something far more important than a US Open champion?
It was the same golfer that was left to watch Toms celebrate two years later, Phil Mickelson.
Those were just two moments that left Mickelson and his fans wondering if he would ever win a major. A few years later, they finally got their answer.
3. Phil Mickelson: 2004 Masters
Including his amateur career, Mickelson had not won a major in 46 tries. He had plenty of close calls but despite being one of the World's best players, he had not won a single major.
The 2004 Masters seemed like it might be the one, as Mickelson entered the final round tied. But a few groups ahead of him, Ernie Els had different ideas, as he recorded two eagles.
When Mickelson shot a two-over par 38 on the front side, his chances seemed bleak.
But then he came back with birdies on 12, 13, and 14 to close the gap. On 16, he finally drew even with Els, making a 20-footer from above the hole.
After making a par on 17, Mickelson came to the 18th needing a birdie to win. His destiny was entirely in his own hands.
He left himself a 20-foot birdie putt. If it went in, he won. If it didn't, he had a sudden-death playoff with Els (assuming he made his par).
Lefty took an aggressive line at the birdie putt. Had it not gone in, his comeback putt to force a playoff was far from a gimme.
Fortunately for Mickelson, none of that mattered. The putt did go in, and Mickelson finally had his first major.
Since then, he has won three other majors. While he has made several great putts to win those, none of them have stood out like this one did.
The reaction of everybody in the above picture tells anyone everything that they need to know about how ridiculous this putt was.
The fans were all happy for him. His caddy, Jim "Bones" Mackay, was relieved. As for Mickelson himself, he may not have the greatest vertical leap, but his reaction tells you all that you ever need to know about how he felt.
2. Tiger Woods: 2001 Players Championship
This is an unusual putt on this list in that it is the only putt listed that did not come during the final round or a playoff.
While The Player's Championship is an elite event, it isn't even a major. So why is this putt, which came in the third round of a non-major on the list at all? Even if it belongs on the list, it certainly shouldn't be this high, should it?
Well, yeah it should be. After all, the putt was better than most.
While a television or radio call doesn't directly impact how great a putt was, it does change how well it is remembered. This is true for any shot in golf. Heck, it's true for anything in sports.
The call is just one element that goes into making this putt ridiculous. The other is the place.
While it is not a major venue, The TPC at Sawgrass does give us perhaps the most famous hole in all of golf: The 17th hole, the island green.
Woods' tee-shot was safely on the green, but he was far from out of trouble. He was on the back part of a multi-tiered green, and the hole was on the front.
The laws of science will tell you that when that ball hits the slope, it is going to pick up a lot of speed. Remember, the water is not far behind that hole, anything going past the hole with too much speed can still get wet.
This didn't get that chance, because it was right on target. It found the bottom of the hole, and we got one of the most memorable moments not only in the great career of Tiger Woods, but in the entire game of golf.
As I said above, The Player's Championship is an elite event. In terms of prestige, is probably first on the list of non-majors.
This putt provided the winning margin in what is to date Woods' only win at that tournament.
1. Justin Leonard: 1999 Ryder Cup
Tiger's putt was better than most, not better than all.
The 1999 Ryder Cup will go down as one of the most controversial and talked about events in golf history, not bad for an "exhibition."
Justin Leonard's Sunday singles match against José María Olazábal was reflective of the entire day for the American team.
The American team was down big at the beginning of the day. Justin Leonard fell down big to start his match.
The American team began to come back, giving themselves a real chance at winning. Justin Leonard did the same.
This was one of the last matches on the course and by the time it reached the 17th green, there was a strong sense from both teams that the result of this match could decide the Ryder Cup.
Leonard and Olazábal were both on the wrong side of a multi-tiered green. Leonard was the first to play.
He hit his putt right on line with the hole with a lot of speed. Had it not gone in, it would have likely rolled for several more feet. It did go in, and when it did, it triggered a reaction more commonly seen on a baseball field after a team has won the World Series.
After a while, order was restored. Olazábal missed his putt, which clinched the cup for the American side. Olazábal did win the final hole to get a half-point for his team, but it didn't matter.
Now, the American players and wives should not have reacted the way that they did. With that said, it was a spur of the moment celebration that for a lot of reasons had little to no impact on who won the 1999 Ryder Cup.
Still, to this day, the Europeans (and many Americans) complain about what happened on that green.
A few things are assured.
One, even though Leonard has a British Open and a Player's Championship to his credit, his career will always be defined by that putt, and nobody can say anything to diminish how great a putt that was.
Two, this putt was the most famous moment from the most talked about Ryder Cup in history. Not only is it the most talked about Ryder Cup, it's one of the most talked about tournaments.
Three, this putt will be shown long after Justin Leonard and anyone else associated with it are gone.
The putt itself was the ridiculous, the celebration was ridiculous, the reaction to the putt was ridiculous, and the reaction to the celebration was ridiculous.
Regardless of what side of the Atlantic Ocean that you are on, this was the most ridiculous putt in the history of golf.