The most famous putts in golf history
Charles Baus/Icon Sportswire

The most famous putts in golf history

The old golf adage "drive for show, putt for dough," are truly words to live by — especially for the pro duffers. That's because it usually comes down to a putt — whether long or short, straight or severely breaking — for a tournament title to be decided.

Some the greatest moments in golf through the years have come courtesy of a special putt, and that is perhaps no more true than at majors. Here's a look at 18 of the most memorable putts in golf history.

 
1 of 18

Seve Ballesteros, 1984 Open Championship

Seve Ballesteros, 1984 Open Championship
Peter Dazeley/Getty Image

The popular Spaniard rallied to win the '84 title, ending Tom Watson's attempt at a third consecutive Open Championship triumph. The highlight of Ballesteros' victory came with his memorable 15-foot, right-to-left successful birdie putt that seem to pause momentarily before dropping in for the win. Seve's jubilant response like that of a little kid is perhaps the defining moment of his career and legacy.

 
2 of 18

Sam Torrance, 1985 Ryder Cup

Sam Torrance, 1985 Ryder Cup
Simon Bruty/Allsport/Getty Images

Torrance might not be a big name to younger American golf fans, but the Scotsman is a hero to those of the game across the pond. That's because Torrance helped Europe win the '85 Ryder Cup at The Belfry. The Europeans' 16 1/2-11 1/2 victory to hand the U.S. its first loss in the event since 1957 was obviously decisive. The highlight of the final day, though, came when Torrance made a 22-footer for birdie on the 18th hole to take down Andy North and put Europe in prime position for the overall win.

 
3 of 18

Jack Nicklaus, 1986 Masters

Jack Nicklaus, 1986 Masters
Augusta National/Getty Images

No doubt, Nicklaus' sixth Masters victory was the most special. At age 46, the Golden Bear became the oldest winner in the storied history of the great tournament. He won by a stroke, taking the lead with a famous 18-foot, downhill, breaking-birdie putt that resulted in a Nicklaus celebratory reaction we had not seen from the legend in quite some time. It was the crowning jewel of his 18th and final major victory

 
4 of 18

Sandy Lyle, 1988 Masters

Sandy Lyle, 1988 Masters
David Cannon/Getty Images

Preceded by one of the greatest sand shots in Masters history, the Scotsman became the first golfer from the United Kingdom to win the Masters, in '88. He did so by making a quite difficult downhill, 10-foot putt for birdie on No. 18. Had he missed, Lyle was headed for a playoff. But he didn't. He raised his hands in victory and made history.

 
5 of 18

Hale Irwin, 1990 U.S. Open

Hale Irwin, 1990 U.S. Open
Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Irwin became the oldest golfer to win the U.S. Open (45 years, 15 days) in 1990 at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago. However, before he did so by winning the first sudden-death playoff in the history of the event over Mike Donald, Irwin needed to force an 18-hole playoff. He did so in dramatic fashion by draining a lengthy putt (anywhere from 45 to 65 feet, depending on who is telling the story), with a mound in the way, on the 72nd hole. His pre-victory lap following the putt is also one of golf's great moments.

 
6 of 18

Constantino Rocca, 1995 Open Championship

Constantino Rocca, 1995 Open Championship
Stephen Munday/Allsport/Getty Images

The famed Italian did not win the '95 Open Championship, but he sure made getting to his playoff with John Daly exciting. Rocca, who never won a major, came close on the Old Course at St. Andrews when he sank a massive, 60-plus-foot, uphill putt on 18 to force the playoff. Overtaken by emotion, Rocca fell face-first on the monster green and lied there for a moment in the wake of his momentary personal triumph.

 
7 of 18

Davis Love III, 1997 PGA Championship

Davis Love III, 1997 PGA Championship
Montana Pritchard/PGA of America via Getty Images

Love won the '97 PGA by a comfortable five strokes at Winged Foot, but his 15-foot birdie putt on the final hole made for one of the most emotional moments in major golf history. He had recently lost his father, and with a rainbow above on the that final hole, Love sealed his first and only major title with a perfect putt — and an inadvertent tribute to his fallen mentor and father.

 
8 of 18

Payne Stewart, 1999 U.S. Open

Payne Stewart, 1999 U.S. Open
Tom Able-Green/Allsport/Getty Images

We didn't know at the time just how important and cherished Stewart's memorable 15-foot winning putt in the rain on the Sunday 18 at Pinehurst in '99 would be. Stewart died months later in a plane accident, but the image of his one-foot, fist pump should be etched in the minds of golf fans. At Pinehurst, a statue of Stewart's celebration will forever be a reminder of that moment.

 
9 of 18

Justin Leonard, 1999 Ryder Cup

Justin Leonard, 1999 Ryder Cup
Jon Buckle/EMPICS via Getty Images

The passion and emotion of the Ryder Cup is what makes the competition among the best in all of sports. Arguably the greatest moment in the history of the event came in 1999 at Brookline, when Justin Leonard dropped that remarkable 45-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole  during his singles match with Jose Maria Olazabal. It ultimately secured the U.S. victory and ignited one of the most memorable and controversial celebrations ever in the sport.

 
10 of 18

Tiger Woods, 2000 PGA Championship, Part I

Tiger Woods, 2000 PGA Championship, Part I
Doug Pensinger/Allsport/Getty Images

It was only about a 5- or 6-foot attempt, but Tiger Woods' putt on the 18th at Valhalla on Sunday to force a playoff with Bob May is often considered one of the most clutch putts of all time. Woods drained it, solidly, and followed it with a passionate fight-pump to add effect and cater even more to the raucous crowd. 

 
11 of 18

Tiger Woods, 2000 PGA Championship, Part II

Tiger Woods, 2000 PGA Championship, Part II
Donald Miralle/Allsport/Getty Images

Some might think Woods' lengthy putt for birdie, complete with his then-somewhat trademark finger point, on the first hole of the playoff to go one stroke up on May was more memorable than the one that got him into the playoff. The case is certainly debatable, but both were pure Tiger at his best. That can't be disputed.

 
12 of 18

Tiger Woods, 2001 PLAYERS Championship

Tiger Woods, 2001 PLAYERS Championship
Stan Badz/PGA/Getty Images

It wasn't a major tournament, but that didn't matter, Woods' remarkable putt on the famed 17th hole, island green at Sawgrass was one for the ages. On the fringe, facing a daunting, downhill, 60-foot putt that featured three breaks along the way, Woods sank it as if he had a road map telling him exactly where to go. It just might very well be the most defining putt of his illustrious golf career.

 
13 of 18

David Toms, 2001 PGA Championship

David Toms, 2001 PGA Championship
Harry How/Allsport/Getty Images

Toms' only major victory came at the Atlanta Athletic Club when he won the PGA Championship with a record-setting, four-round total of 265. But it was not a decisive victory. Toms led by one stroke over Phil Mickelson heading into the final hole and needed to make a challenging 12-footer for par to secure the victory.

 
14 of 18

Phil Mickelson, 2004 Masters

Phil Mickelson, 2004 Masters
Icon Sports Media/Icon Sportswire

The tag of "best player to never win a major" was lifted from Mickelson following his emotional comeback victory at the Masters in '04. In fitting fashion, Mickelson secured his first major title with a dramatic putt. As soon as Lefty hit his successful 20-foot, downhill, birdie putt on the final hole, the gallery rose in unison and erupted when it fell. Mickelson leaped with joy and amazement, all at once, as his time finally had come.

 
15 of 18

Tiger Woods, 2008 U.S. Open

Tiger Woods, 2008 U.S. Open
Charles Baus/Icon Sportswire

Playing with what we would later find out was a leg fracture and knee issue, Woods displayed his grit and determination by winning at Torrey Pines in a sudden-death playoff over Rocco Mediate after the two played a full 18-hole playoff. However, it was a putt in the neighborhood of 12-15 feet away on the 72nd hole hole that got Woods to that playoff and further displayed his will of a warrior. Woods' reaction to the make, as well as that of then-caddie Steve Williams, is priceless.

 
16 of 18

Graeme McDowell, 2010 Ryder Cup

Graeme McDowell, 2010 Ryder Cup
BPI/Imago/Icon Sportswire

In the final match of the 2010 Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, America's Hunter Mahan squared off with Europe's Graeme McDowell. With the Europeans 1UP at the 16th, he sank a brilliant 15-footer that followed the spine of the green and ultimately gave his team the victory, much to the delight of the fans at the Welsh course.

 
17 of 18

Ian Poulter, 2012 Ryder Cup

Ian Poulter, 2012 Ryder Cup
Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire

Poulter was a big factor in Europe's remarkable comeback victory at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah. Now, that came during Sunday's singles when the Europeans made up a 10-6 deficit. However, during Saturday's afternoon four-ball, Poulter sank a stellar 15-footer on 18 that left the Europeans within four of the U.S. heading into the final day of action and set up one of the greatest comebacks in all of sports.

 
18 of 18

Adam Scott, 2013 Masters

Adam Scott, 2013 Masters
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The talented Australian has just one major victory to date, but it was certainly a memorable one thanks to two impressive putts in the rain at Augusta in 2013 . First, Scott rolled in a 25-foot putt for birdie on 18 that ultimately sent him to a playoff with Angel Cabrera. On the second hole of the sudden-death matchup, Cabrera barely missed his birdie chance, but Scott made good from 15 feet to claim the title.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

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