With this year’s Open Championship denied to golf fans all around the world due to Coronavirus, it may be second best, but looking back at Opens past, and savouring some of the most significant single golf shots – good and bad – to have adorned the world’s most prestigious ‘Major’ in living memory might help ease – if not altogether eradicate – withdrawal symptoms and pangs of ‘Wish I was there,’ syndrome.
Great golf shots come in all shapes and sizes, from prodigious drives to eagle-making or par-saving putts, miraculous escapes from bunkers and bushes, the most audacious when the pressure is on and the chips are down, hence, context is everything.
So here’s a highly-subjective selection of Greatest Hits to remember and some Misses to forget – in the absence of real, live Open golf. We started with some magic from the Big Easy, Ernie Els at Muirfield in 2002 and moved on to some Tiger Woods gold from Royal Liverpool in 2006. At number eight, we had Gene Sarazen sign off on his Open career with an unforgettable hole-in one while ‘The Duel in the Sun’ sits proudly at number 7. At number 6 we find a much more recent affair…
We’ll upload each hit daily until we get to number one. Let us know what you think.
#6 146th Open Championship, Royal Birkdale, 20th – 23rd July 2017
Rising American star Jordan Spieth was fully in control of the 146th Open Championship at Royal Lytham, having led after all three rounds going into Sunday’s final round with the weather taking a turn for the worse, cold, blustery and intermittent, showery rain, and, to add to the pressure on the young Texan, Chinese teenager had signed for a sensational eight-under-par 63 to set the lead in the clubhouse at six-under.
On the 13th tee and just a handful of holes remaining, Spieth, already a two-time ‘Major’ champion with a Masters and US Open title to his name, stood, head-in-hands having carved his drive way right, deep into the dunes, an unplayable lie, his procession towards a first Open Championship was in serious jeopardy.
Having found his ball and declared it unplayable, the American proceeded – over a period of 15 – 20 minutes to carefully weigh-up his option, whilst his playing partner and rival for the title, Matt Kuchar stood by his ball, safely on the fairway, chilling in the stiffening breeze, more than enough time to lose his composure and his rhythm.
Spieth eventually ended up in the practice ground, 50-plus-yards-plus back from where his ball landed, line-of-sight, ironically slap-bang in front of his sponsor Titleist’s tour truck, from where he launched a low, drilled 3-iron, over the offending sand dune and onto the green, holing out for a damage-limiting bogey five, surrendering the lead – albeit temporarily – to Kuchar, but the worst of the worst had been avoided.
Having capitulated in similar circumstances at the Masters the previous year, all eyes were on Spieth to see how he world react, buckle under pressure once more or take heart from his get-out-of-jail-free moment, and he chose the latter.
Almost holing out on the short 14th Spieth produced an audacious eagle 15 thanks to an audacious 50ft putt, converting again from only slightly closer on 16 before exchanging birdies with Kuchar on the 17th, by which time he was home-and-dry, Champion Golfer of the Year, 2017, only a US PGA Championship away from a Career Grand Slam, and all stemming from his clear, creative thinking and superb execution on a 13th hole that could – and arguably should – have been unlucky for him.