This article first appeared on Golfshake.com in Aug 2019
For such an unspectacular part of the game, putting is incredibly important. So many great championships have been claimed with the short stick, all manner of improbable putts holed to secure success. But what about the times when the stroke doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, when the putt just refuses to fall? For top professional golfers, these moments don’t happen often, but when they do, the results are horrific. We’ve already looked at 10 of the Biggest Putts in Golf History. But now, if you’re squeamish about cataclysmically poor putting, look away immediately. If you think you can handle it, here’s our top 10 worst missed putts of all time.
Bernhard Langer in the 1991 Ryder Cup
Pockmarked with flared tempers, loud arguments and bitterly fought matches, the ‘War on the Shore’ more than lived up to its title. It also lived up to its alternative name, newly coined by us: The Tweak on the Beach. The victim was Bernhard Langer. Coming to the 18th hole of Kiawah Island all-square with Hale Irwin and needing a point to secure Europe the trophy, Langer was faced with a must-make six-footer. The German scouted out the turf, swished a confident practice stroke, but was unable to avoid shoving it wide. The putt remained above ground and, with it, Europe’s chances were scuppered.
Scott Hoch in the 1989 Masters
Starting Sunday four shots behind the overnight leader Ben Crenshaw, Scott Hoch knew he needed something special if he was to have any chance of slipping on a green jacket in 1989. A cluster of birdies later and he found himself in a play-off with Nick Faldo, safely parked on the 10th green with two putts to claim the championship. His first putt just missed, rolling to a stop two feet past the hole. Only two feet, not even the length of a grown man’s stride, separated Scott Hoch from golfing history. Something startled him. He backed away. He returned to the ball and missed, letting in Nick Faldo to win his first Masters and his second of six major championships.
Phil Mickelson in the 2019 US Open
Though a prolific major winner elsewhere, when it comes to the US Open, Phil Mickelson is a case of always the bridesmaid, never the bride. His bid for 2019’s competition, however, was especially chastening, involving, as it did, his missing of one of the shortest putts ever missed on the PGA Tour. On the 4th hole in the first round, Mickelson had what should have been a routine roll for his par. Paul Azinger said it was 18 inches, but it looked more like half that. Phil put a bad stroke on it and the ball hit the left lip and spun out. Unbelievable.
Ernie Els in the 2016 Masters
If you thought Phil Mickelson’s jabbed shortie was bad though, wait until you get a load of Ernie Els. It’s no secret that the South African player has battled with the yips in recent years, but you might not be aware of how terrible his putting woes really were. His struggles were encapsulated in a disastrous six putt from inside of two feet in the 2016 Masters. When his first effort drifted wide, partner Jason Day was incredulous, when the second, third, fourth and fifth ones did likewise, he had to turn away. Els didn’t even hit the hole on four of his six tries. Putting simply doesn’t get worse than this.
Doug Sanders in the 1970 Open
There are few greater golfing amphitheaters than the 18th green on the Old Course at St Andrews. It’s one of our sport’s most fearsome crucibles, where champions are broken or made. Staring down only a short putt to claim an Open at the Home of Golf, Doug Sanders must have thought he’d be the latter. But it just wasn’t to be. Sanders never looked comfortable over the putt and decelerated through the stroke. We all know the result. The putt rolled low and wide and no matter how much he tried, the American was unable to rake it back into the cup. Sanders would go on to lose in a play-off to a rejuvenated Jack Nicklaus, spurning the chance of a lifetime.
Lee Westwood in the 2016 Ryder Cup
Lee Westwood has never been a fan of the shorties; he’s solid enough on the long ones, but when it comes to inside five feet, Westwood’s putter might as well be made out of rubber. After tweaking a short putt on the 17th , Westwood faced an even shorter one on 18 for birdie and to halve his foursomes match. The putt was destined to miss from the start. Westwood never looked comfortable, made too many shaky practice strokes and predictably nudged wide. His partner Danny Willett looked crestfallen but unsurprised. Even Westwood himself seemed to have expected to jib it.
Billy Horschel in the 2016 RSM Classic
After battling into a five-way tie for first in the final round of the 2016 RSM Classic, Billy Horschel needed a one and a half foot putt on the first play-off hole to keep fighting. It looked like a sitter. Horschel prowled around, getting the line and his putter right before drawing back the blade for the stroke. It never even started online, as the golfer shanked right into the lip and the ball spun out. Fortunately, it didn’t take Horschel long to get over the miss. In 2017, he quashed his play-off nerves by triumphing over Jason Day – and when he won the Zurich Classic a year later, Billy Ho was officially back.
Tom Watson in the 2009 Open
At 59, Tom Watson stood on the threshold of history. A par on the 18th hole in the final round of the Open at Turnberry would do it, giving Watson the title by a single shot. After a good drive, his purely struck second shot sailed just, heartbreakingly, over the green. One shuddery putt later and he was staring down an eight footer for the championship. With eight majors under his belt, you would think Tom would have been able to keep it together, right? But you know what they say about putting and age, and his nerve failed him when it mattered most. His putt never even looked like dropping and Watson was downed in the resulting play-off, losing to Stewart Cink by six strokes.
Brand Snedeker in the 2009 BMW Championship
Unlike many of the other missed putts on this list, Snedeker’s wonky stroke didn’t lose him a championship; it did cost him a heck of a lot of money and a slot in the season ending Tour Championship, however. Worse, he didn’t even have to hole one – a sturdy and unspectacular two putt from 15 feet was all that was needed. Usually this is bread and butter stuff, especially for a tour pro of Snedeker’s caliber. Four putts later, however, Snedeker was on his way home, his time in the Playoffs done. Ouch.
Tiger Woods in the 2019 WGC Match Play
Tiger Woods doesn’t miss many putts under the gun, but on the 18th hole in his Match Play quarter final round against Lucas Bjerregaard, that exact scenario took place: Woods blinked. The Big Cat had been in command of the game but a late eagle from Bierregaard made them all square going into 18 and when Woods misjudged his approach shot, finding a bunker with only a flick of the wedge, the 15 time major-winner looked to have his work cut out. Woods’ bunker shot left him a nervy four footer for a half and the putt failed to drop. Unbelievably, the 15-time major champion was out.