Rob Lee described Yang’s approach as “the best shot I’ve ever seen.” What an astonishing finish to an astonishing battle. Yang’s chip in at the 13th during the same round arguably warrants a place on the list, but that was much more straightforward. Yang had to contend with trees, a tiny zone in which he could feasibly have landed the ball, fending off Tiger Woods, and the pressure exerted by the prospect of being the first Asian to win a Major Championship. No matter. Yang hit a beautiful rescue club, almost landed it in the hole, and knocked in a ten footer to take the title. Quite remarkable.
When Phil Mickelson saw the lie and the gap, the crowd at Augusta hoped the American golfer would take it on. There was a chance given the way the 41-year-old plays the game, and if he attempted it, he had the skill to pull it off, but, despite everything, it was amazing that he’d go for it on the 67th hole of a Major Championship. Perhaps this is why Mickelson is so popular: he plays the game for himself, and refuses to play the percentage. As soon as it was confirmed that the gap was big enough, those supporting Mickelson hoped he would reject the advice of his caddy Jim Bones to leave it short of the stream. And how. He produces an astonishing six iron to six feet, but misses the putt, the irony being that – given his short game – he probably would have made the same score if he had laid up. A microcosmical example of why we love Mickelson.
Of all the holes to make an albatross, and Greame McDowell chooses the 17th at Valderrama. Not only that, but he does it on Sunday afternoon to catapult himself into a tie for the lead. The perils of the 17th at Valderrama need no further explanation, and one can only imagine its difficulty when coupled with the added pressure of being in contention at the final event of the calendar year. McDowell hits a good drive to the left primary rough, to leave a long iron to the treacherous green. A perfect connection and he lands the ball in the fringe; five yards short and he ends up in the water, five yards long and he faces the prospect of a hideously difficult, downhill bunker shot, with water looming behind the pin. His ball gets a perfect bounce, runs up the green, hits the pin, disappears into the cup, and rapturous celebrations ensue. He went on to double bogey the 18th to finish in a tie for fourth. In 2010, he describes the 17th as “one of my favourite holes on tour”, but concedes that he may be a touch “biased.” Who can blame him?
“In your life have you ever seen anything like that?” screams a frankly overwhelmed commentator. He is referring, of course, to Tiger Woods’ miraculous chip-in from the back of the 16th green at Augusta National, one of the most memorable shots in the history of golf. His tee shot must have looked perfect in the air, but the adrenalin of being in the lead of a major championship translated into extra distance. His ball ends up inches short of the second cut of rough, making his chip shot even more difficult. He could easily have left his chip short of the slope, or over hit it and left himself a sloping, fifteen footer for par. Extreme precision was required, and extreme precision was delivered. His ball lands just on the green, spins on the second bounce, and starts to trundle down the slope towards the hole. Silence quickly changes to animation as the crowd realise what might come to fruition. His ball seemingly stops agonisingly short of the hole, but rotates one last time, provides a wonderfully fortuitous advert for Nike, teeters on the edge of the hole and creeps into the cup. The subsequent celebration of Woods and Williams says it all.
“One of the greatest shots you will see under major championship pressure.” Shaun Micheel, appearing in only his third major, and coming off a bogey at the 71st hole, finds the primary rough with his playing partner, Chad Campbell, one behind at the time, splitting the fairway with his drive. Micheel pulls out a seven iron, makes a great swing, and stares down the ball as his caddy shouts “be right”. Under the circumstances, right does not come close to doing the shot justice. It pitches fifteen feet short of the pin and runs up, settling two inches away from the cup. Micheel, who has no idea how close he is, takes off his cap and waves it around in triumph as his ball and the flag become brilliantly visible. A stunning shot and example of how to deal with pressure, and a major championship for a man that didn’t pick up any shots on the par 5’s over the course of the week; a man who confessed after the round that he would have been happy to make the cut.
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