There are shots to win tournaments and then there are iconic shots to win tournaments. Here are some that come to mind. The criterion for my selections is simple: The shot has to have a gigantic “wow” factor. That means it has to have been a difficult shot, almost impossible to imagine, never mind pull off at the critical moment.
There’s another factor as well. Golfers who find themselves on the courses where the “wow” shots happened will go to the spots to try the shot for themselves. Well, they’ll at least have a look. Why try something that’s next to impossible? But that’s where the “wow’ comes from. I’ll start, of course, with the shot Bubba Watson hit to win the Masters on the second playoff hole, the 10th on at Augusta National. He had 164 yards to the hole, he was in the trees to the right of the fairway, and he hit a rope hook through a corridor in the forest with a gap wedge that finished 15’ from the hole.
Come on. That didn’t happen, did it? But it did. Here’s what Tom Watson said this week about the shot.
“The shot he hit on the second playoff hole that he hooked the gap wedge 155 yards, there are very few people who can do that, hook it and hit it that far. The only two people that I have witnessed be able to hit a wedge like that are [Lee]Trevino and Andy North. They can turn a wedge just right around a corner. I can't do that. I can't turn it that much.”
So many of the “wow” shots happen at the Masters. I was out there in the playoff for the 1987 Masters when Larry Mize faced a brutal chip and run from right of the 11th green. He was in a playoff against Greg Norman. Seve Ballesteros had dropped out after bogeying the 10th hole.
The green was super-fast, and running away from Mize. He had 110-feet to the hole. The ball ran and ran and ran, and fell. Norman had no chance after that to make his long birdie putt and extend the playoff.
Then there was the pitch that Tiger Woods had from behind the 16th green in the last round of the 2005 Masters. He was playing with Chris DiMarco, and they were locked in a battle for the green jacket.
Tiger studied the shot and studied it and studied it. Lanny Wadkins was working the hole for CBS and said it was “one of the toughest pitches on the entire course.”
Woods choked down on his club and nipped the ball. It landed well left of the hole, turned right, took the slope of the green, rolled toward the hole and hung up on the lip for a split-second.
“Oh my goodness,” CBS’s Verne Lundquist said as the ball neared the hole. Woods went on to win in a playoff against DiMarco. When the ball fell on the 16th, Lundquist said, “Oh my, in your life, have you seen anything like that?”
Then there was the six-iron that Tiger Woods hit from a fairway bunker on the last hole of the 2000 Bell Canadian Open at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. He had to hit the shot over the water in front of the green, to a pin tucked in the far rear right. He had 214 yards to the hole. The shot came off, with the tournament on the line.
Most every golfer who tees it up at the Abbey looks at the shot Tiger had those dozen years ago. Some shake their heads and move on. Others try the shot. The water in front of the green is full of golf balls from players trying to repeat the shot.
Those are a few “wow” shots that come to mind. This isn’t to say that Louis Oosthuizen’s four-iron that he holed for a double eagle from 253 yards on the second hole at the Masters in the last round didn’t have that “wow” factor. It was mind-boggling to watch the ball take the slope and run toward the hole at a right angle from where it landed, and then fall.
But the shot didn’t win the Masters for Oosthuizen, who lost to Watson in the playoff. Bubba’s shot did win the Masters for him. It’s the “wow” shot of the year, and one of the, well, “wowest” ever. Wow, excuse the grammar, please.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein